The Slatest

Suspected Nazis Expelled from U.S. Collected Millions in Social Security from Abroad

Former Nazi death camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland.  

Photo by JACEK BEDNARCZYK/AFP/Getty Images

An investigative report from the Associated Press reports that the U.S. government made the ultimate deal with the devil—suspected Nazis residing in the U.S. could keep collecting their Social Security benefits if they left the country quickly. The AP found dozens of cases of suspected Nazi war criminals that were still able to collect millions in Social Security payments.

The report features former Auschwitz guard Jakob Denzinger, now 90 years old, who emigrated to the U.S. decades ago and built a thriving plastics company in Akron, Ohio and all the trappings of the American dream. When Denzinger’s past caught up to him however, and the U.S. began taking steps to strip his American citizenship, he fled and settled in Croatia “where he lives comfortably, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers, according to the AP. “He collects a Social Security payment of about $1,500 each month, nearly twice the take-home pay of an average Croatian worker.”

Here’s more from the AP:

The payments flowed through a legal loophole that has given the U.S. Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave. If they agreed to go, or simply fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal government records.

In response to AP’s findings, a White House spokesman said Monday that Nazi suspects should not be getting the benefits…  The Justice Department has denied using Social Security payments as a tool for removing Nazi suspects. But records show the U.S. State Department and the Social Security Administration voiced grave concerns over the methods used by the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit, the Office of Special Investigations. State officials derogatorily called the practice “Nazi dumping” and claimed the OSI was bargaining with suspects so they would leave voluntarily. Since 1979, the AP analysis found, at least 38 of 66 suspects removed from the United States kept their Social Security benefits.

Legislation that would have closed the Social Security loophole failed 15 years ago, partly due to opposition from the OSI. Since then, according to the AP’s analysis, at least 10 Nazi suspects kept their benefits after leaving. The Social Security Administration confirmed payments to seven who are deceased. One living suspect was confirmed through an AP interview. Two others met the conditions to keep their benefits.

Of the 66 suspects, at least four are alive, living in Europe on U.S. Social Security. In newly uncovered Social Security Administration records, the AP found that by March 1999, 28 suspected Nazi criminals had collected $1.5 million in Social Security payments after their removal from the U.S. Since then, the AP estimates the amount paid out has reached into the millions.