US & Canada

Nazis who left US still received social security

Jakob Denzinger was seen in Osijek, Croatia, on 28 July 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Suspect Jakob Denzinger is still receiving benefits in Croatia, AP reports

The US government has paid dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals millions of dollars in Social Security benefits after forcing them to leave the US.

The payments, funded by taxpayers, were made through a legal loophole, an Associated Press investigation has uncovered. Some are still being paid.

Former guards at Nazi labour camps, where millions died, are among them.

The US justice department says benefits are paid to individuals who renounce US citizenship and leave voluntarily.

But there is anger that public money is being used in this way.

"It's absolutely outrageous that Nazi war criminals are continuing to receive Social Security benefits when they have been outlawed from our country for many, many, many years," said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

Getting paid:

  • 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

She said she plans to introduce legislation to close the legal loophole.

Four World War Two suspects are said to still be alive and collecting benefits. One is former SS guard Martin Hartmann, another is Auschwitz camp patroller Jakob Denzinger.

Mr Hartmann is said to have moved to Berlin from Arizona in 2007, while Mr Denzinger left Ohio for Germany in 1989. He currently resides in Croatia.

Image copyright AP
Image caption More than six million Jews were exterminated during World War Two
Image copyright AP
Image caption Martin Hartmann returned to Germany in 2007

The arrangement reportedly allows the justice department's Office of Special Investigations to avoid drawn-out deportation hearings and expel more Nazis from the US.

At least 38 of 66 suspects who left the US kept their benefits, the Associated Press investigation found.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Jakob Denzinger now lives in Croatia
Image caption The entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland

In a statement, justice department spokesman Peter Carr said that in 1979, the US Congress ordered the removal of Nazi criminals "as expeditiously as possible" to countries where they would face the possibility of criminal prosecution.

"Under existing US law, all retirement benefits - Social Security and Medicare - are terminated if someone is ordered by the court to be removed from the US," he added.

"However, if an individual renounces their US citizenship and voluntarily leaves the US, they might continue to receive Social Security benefits."

More on this story