It’s well-documented by now that when it comes to letting those who aid in the commission of massive white-collar crime off easy, the Justice Department is second to none. Recent guilty pleas from a few large banks related to FX rigging were purely symbolic and the real criminals were allowed to walk away unscathed, fortunes in tow.
As it turns out, there’s another group of less-than-savory individuals that the DoJ allowed to ride off into the sunset in exchange for concessions that aren’t commensurate with their misdeeds: Nazis.
Last October, AP began asking questions about Social Security payments to Nazi war criminals who came to the US after World War II. According to an AP report, ex-Nazis were told they could keep their social security benefits if the voluntarily left the country and some are still collecting taxpayer-funded benefits to this day.
Here’s a list BBC published last year:
- Jakob Denzinger began serving in a Death's Head Unit in 1942, later settled in Ohio and became a plastic industry executive
- Martin Hartmann volunteered for the SS in 1943, was stripped of his US citizenship and admitted to his Nazi past
- Martin Bartesch was a guard at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, was working as a janitor when US authorities discovered past
- Arthur Rudolph is accused of using slave labour at a Nazi rocket factory, brought to US after war due to technical prowess
- John Avdzej was a Nazi-installed regional mayor in occupied Belorussia, claimed to have been a farmer when he immigrated to US
- Wasyl Lytwyn served in a Nazi SS unit in the Warsaw Ghetto, worked as a shipping clerk in Chicago and later admitted concealing his SS service
- Peter Mueller was a Nazi SS guard who came to the US in 1956 and resided in Illinois before voluntarily leaving for Germany
Now, AP says a new government report from the Social Security Administration will reveal that more than $20 million in benefits have been paid to 130 Nazi war criminals over the course of 53 years.
In a forthcoming report triggered by an Associated Press investigation, the top watchdog at the Social Security Administration found the agency paid $20.2 million in benefits to more than 130 suspected Nazi war criminals, SS guards, and others who may have participated in the Third Reich's atrocities during World War II.
The report, scheduled for public release this week, used computer-processed data and other internal agency records to develop a comprehensive picture of the total number of Nazi suspects who received benefits and the dollar amounts paid out…
The payments are far greater than previously estimated and occurred between February 1962 and January 2015, when a new law called the No Social Security for Nazis Act kicked in and ended retirement payments for four beneficiaries. The report does not include the names of any Nazi suspects who received benefits.
The large amount of the benefits and their duration illustrate how unaware the American public was of the influx of Nazi persecutors into the U.S., with estimates ranging as high as 10,000. Many lied about their Nazi pasts to get into the U.S. and even became American citizens. They got jobs and said little about what they did during the war.
Yet the U.S. was slow to react. It wasn't until 1979 that a special Nazi-hunting unit, the Office of Special Investigations, was created within the Justice Department.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., requested that the Social Security Administration's inspector general look into the scope of the payments following AP's investigation, which was published in October 2014. On Saturday, she said the IG's report showed that 133 alleged and confirmed Nazis actively worked to conceal their true identities from the U.S. government and still received Social Security payments.
AP found that the Justice Department used a legal loophole to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the U.S. in exchange for Social Security benefits. If they agreed to go voluntarily, or simply fled the country before being deported, they could keep their benefits. The Justice Department denied using Social Security payments as a way to expel former Nazis.
And more from AP this morning:
Elfriede Rinkel's past as a Nazi concentration camp guard didn't keep her from collecting nearly $120,000 in American Social Security benefits.
Rinkel admitted to being stationed at the Ravensbrueck camp during World War II, where she worked with an attack dog trained by the SS, according to U.S. Justice Department records. She immigrated to California and married a German-born Jew whose parents had been killed in the Holocaust.
(Immigration document for Rinkel when she entered the US in 1959)
She agreed to leave the U.S. in 2006 and remains the only woman the Justice Department's Nazi-hunting unit ever initiated deportation proceedings against. Yet after Rinkel departed, the U.S. Social Security Administration kept paying her widow benefits, which began after her husband died, because there was no legal basis for stopping them until late last year.
So essentially, the DoJ allowed thousands of Nazi war criminals to reside in the US after the war and didn't begin to hunt them down until 1979, and only later did the department move to expel them, and instead of using the court system to have them removed — which would have voided their benefits — politely tipped them off to the fact that if they leave voluntarily and renounce their citizenship, they may be entitled to continue to receive social security. Sounds quite a bit like the negotiating tactics the DoJ used with Wall Street recently: admit you're guilty and we'll exempt you from any and all regulations that would impede you from carrying on business as usual.
Par for the course we suppose.