THE ONLY thing worse than allowing ex-Nazis to live in the United States is paying them to live comfortably somewhere else. Yet that is what happened courtesy of Social Security.
The Associated Press reported that dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals or SS guards continued to collect Social Security payments after being forced out of the United States. This largesse was possible because of a loophole that gave the U.S. Justice Department the ability to use Social Security payments to motivate these suspects to leave the United States rather than face deportation.
The AP documented cases that included an SS guard who was a participant in the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, a Nazi collaborator and a rocket scientist accused of using slave labor to build the V-2 rocket used to bomb London – all kept their Social Security benefits after leaving the United States.
While the Justice Department denies using Social Security payments as leverage to get suspected Nazis out of the country, other government officials raised concerns over this very practice, calling it "Nazi dumping." According to the AP, since 1979 at least 38 of 66 suspected Nazis removed from the United States retained their Social Security benefits. This is outrageous. The late Rep. Bob Franks, a New Jersey Republican, tried to close the loophole without success.
Finding countries to accept deported suspected Nazis is problematic, and few of these individuals were ever prosecuted in their new homelands. Whether Social Security payments were used as carrots to get suspected Nazis out of the country may be disputed, but not the payments.
The longer this loophole remains open, the better the chances that these individuals – now in the 80s and 90s — who lied to gain entrance into the United States and U.S. citizenship will have succeeded in gaming the system. Even if they were forced to find refuge abroad, they were able to live off American taxpayers.
The U.S. government may have saved money by finding a way to have suspected Nazis voluntarily leave the country, avoiding costly litigation. But there is another cost to weigh – a moral one. In another decade, this argument will be academic as the last Nazis die of natural causes, something millions of their victims – mainly Jews – did not experience.
Congress should close this loophole. There is precious little time left.