Nazis who immigrated to the US after WWII were 'bribed' with Social Security benefits to leave the country
BDozens of suspected Nazi war criminals, who have immigrated to the US after World War II, were still eligible for millions of dollars in US Social Security benefits even after being deported out of the country, an Associated Press investigation has found.
According to the report, a legal loophole enabled the US Justice Department to funnel taxpayers' money to the Nazi suspects in exchange for them admitting their crimes and leaving the country quickly and voluntarily, saving the US government years of legal proceedings.
Those Nazi suspects continued to receive their Social Security money, US government records showed, whether they left the country willingly, or fled the threat of deportation.
According to an AP report from 2013, in the past 34 years the US Justice Department has filed legal proceedings against 137 suspected Nazis, with only 66 being expelled by deportation, extradition, or voluntary departure. At least 20 died while their cases were pending, and US officials agreed not to pursue 20 other deportation cases because the suspects were in such poor health, based on 2008 Justice Department data.
Since 1979, the current AP analysis found, at least 38 of 66 suspects removed from the country kept their Social Security benefits.
Some of the beneficiaries are still alive today and continue to receive Social Security from the US government to this day.
One of them is Martin Hartmann, 95. Hartmann volunteered for the SS in 1943 and was assigned to one of the Death's Head battalions. During the war he served as an SS guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Germany.
After the war he settled in Arizona but moved back to Berlin in 2007 before being stripped of his American citizenship, following an agreement with the Justice Department. In the agreement, he admitted to his Nazi past.
Jakob Denzinger, 90, who was a guard at the Auschwitz camp in Poland, is another. In 1942, at age 18, Denzinger began serving in a Death's Head unit. After arriving in the US after the war and settling in Ohio, he fled to Germany in 1989 after learning deportation proceedings against him were underway.
Denzinger currently leaves in Croatia. Denzinger's son, who lives in the US, confirmed to AP his father still receives Social Security payments.
Romanian-born Martin Bartesch was an SS guard at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. He immigrated to the US in 1955. In 1987 he signed an agreement with the Justice Department to leave the US and returned to Austria at the same time his American citizenship was revoked.
Bartesch continued to receive Social Security benefits until he died in 1989.
Arthur Rudolph, one of the Germany's most prominent rocket scientists who ran the Mittelwerk munitions factory, was brought to the US after World War II under Operation Paperclip, an American program that recruited scientists who had worked in Nazi Germany. Rudolph signed a settlement agreement in 1983 following an investigation into his use of slave laborers at the factory.
Rudolph left for West Germany in 1984 and renounced his American citizenship. He collected US Social Security benefits until his death in 1996.
John Avdzej was a regional mayor in occupied Belorussia, where he aided the Germans in the arrest and execution of thousands of Jews.
But when the Justice Department uncovered evidence about his role as a Nazi collaborator, Avdzej agreed to leave and renounce his US citizenship. In his agreement was a provision that stated "there is no basis under US law for limiting in any way Avdzej's receipt of Social Security benefits."
Avdzej arrived in West Germany in 1984. He died in 1998 at 93.
Wasyl Lytwyn served in an SS unit that took part in the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. He immigrated to the US in 1957. Lytwyn agreed to leave the United States in 1995. The settlement agreement stated his Social Security benefits would not be affected.
Lytwyn, 93, is believed to be living today in Ukraine.
Peter Mueller was born in Yugoslavia and served as an SS guard in the Natzweiller concentration camp in France during WWII. Mueller immigrated to the US in 1956 and settled in Illinois. He voluntarily returned to Germany 1994.
Mueller, 90, lives today in Germany, according to family members.
The US Justice Department's practice, known as "Nazi dumping," had to stop amid fierce objections of different governmental bodies. But the benefits' payments continue uninterrupted.
Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of its Israel Office, told i24news that the Justice Department's practice was a compromise the US had to make in order to get the Nazi immigrants to leave the country, since no country demanded their extradition in order to indict them for the crimes they committed during the war.
"The US could not indict the Nazis because their crimes were committed outside of the country and the victims were not American citizens," Zuroff explained. "The compromise the Justice Department found was to indict them on violation of US immigration laws and deport them. In order to promote the deportation the US thought it fit to reach an agreement with the Nazis, which let them keep their legal rights and receive the benefits they deserve for working all these years in the US on condition they leave the country willingly. The money the Nazis received was by no means Jewish money," he added.
A secret 600-page report of the Justice Department, obtained by The New York Times in 2010, concluded that American intelligence officials created a “safe haven” in the United States for Nazis and their collaborators after World War II.
The Justice Department report, describing what it calls “the government’s collaboration with persecutors,” says that OSI (the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which was created in 1979 to deport Nazis) investigators learned that some of the Nazis “were indeed knowingly granted entry” to the United States, even though government officials were aware of their pasts.
“America, which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became — in some small measure — a safe haven for persecutors as well,” it said.