The following editorial appeared Wednesday in the Dallas Morning News:
Jakob Denzinger gets about $1,500 a month in Social Security payments, but the 90-year-old retiree isn’t a typical senior citizen.
He’s a former Auschwitz guard and one-time Ohio businessman who is now living comfortably overseas on U.S. Social Security benefits. His monthly check is nearly twice the take-home pay of an average worker in Croatia, where he lives. This for a man who patrolled one of the Nazi regime’s most infamous death camps. It is an outrageous affront; Congress should no longer tolerate it.
An Associated Press investigation published over the weekend found that the U.S. Justice Department secretly used the promise of continued retirement payments to persuade dozens of Nazi suspects in the U.S. to leave. If they agreed to go quietly, or fled before deportation, as Denzinger did in 1989, they could retain their benefits. In return, the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations avoided messy deportation hearings and increased the number of former Nazis it expelled.
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Just how many Nazis cashed in isn’t known. However, it’s stomach-turning to know that Nazi war criminals are receiving retirement benefits, just like your father or grandfather who fought to end the Nazi reign of terror. No accountability. Just a quiet retirement with a steady stream of government checks for Hitler’s henchmen.
Americans deserve answers. The AP traces the program to 1979 and says at least 38 of 66 suspected Nazis removed from the country since then kept receiving their retirement benefits. By March 1999, the AP reports, 28 suspected Nazi criminals living overseas had amassed $1.5 million in Social Security benefits. That’s probably just the tip of the iceberg, but Social Security and Justice Department officials aren’t talking.
We acknowledge that there is scant appetite in Europe or the United States to bring these aging men to trial. However, neither is there good reason for the U.S. to continue subsidizing their golden years. The deaths of millions should never be forgotten or bought off. With anti-Semitism again on the rise in Europe, sweeping these cases under the rug is the wrong way to signal to the world that we will never forget Nazi atrocities.
Congress turned its back on previous measures to stop payments to keep from offending diplomatic sensibilities or slowing down the Justice Department’s expulsion efforts. It’s time for this insult to end. A White House spokesman says the president, rightly, wants the benefits stopped, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., has called for an inquiry into the actions of Justice Department and Social Security officials; she also plans to introduce legislation to halt the payments.
It is unconscionable to reward those accused of such horrific crimes. Congress should act now to strip them of their benefits.