Former Auschwitz guard Jakob Denzinger lived the American dream.
His plastics company in the Rust Belt town of Akron, Ohio, thrived. By the late 1980s, he had acquired the trappings of success: a Cadillac DeVille and a Lincoln Town Car, a lake-front home, investments in oil and real estate.
Then the Nazi hunters showed up.
In 1989, as the U.S. government prepared to strip him of his citizenship, Denzinger packed a pair of suitcases and fled to Germany. He later settled in a pleasant town on the Drava River, where he lives comfortably, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. He collects a Social Security payment of about $1,500 each month, nearly twice the take-home pay of an average Croatian worker.
Denzinger, 90, is among dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and SS guards who collected millions of dollars in Social Security payments after being forced out of the United States, an Associated Press investigation found.
The White House said Monday that suspected Nazi war criminals and former SS guards should not be receiving millions of dollars in Social Security. It says the Social Security Administration and the Department of Justice work “within the confines of current law” to cut off benefits for criminals who should not receive them.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz says: “Our position is we don’t believe these individuals should be getting these benefits.”
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) demanded Monday that the inspectors general at the Justice Department and Social Security Administration launch an “immediate investigation” of the payments. Maloney is a high-ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
In letters to the inspectors general at both agencies, Maloney called the payments a “gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.” The Justice Department said it was reviewing Maloney’s letter. The Social Security Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The payments flowed via a legal loophole that has given the U.S. Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave. If they agreed to go, or simply fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal government records.
Like Denzinger, many lied about their Nazi pasts to get into the U.S. following World War II, and eventually became American citizens.
Among those who benefited:
– Armed SS troops who guarded the Nazi network of camps where millions of Jews perished.
– An SS guard who took part in the brutal liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland that killed as many as 13,000 Jews.
– A Nazi collaborator who engineered the arrest and execution of thousands of Jews in Poland.
– A German rocket scientist accused of using slave labor to build the V-2 rocket that pummeled London. He later won NASA’s highest honor for helping to put a man on the moon.
The AP’s findings are the result of more than two years of interviews, research and analysis of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and other sources.
State officials derogatorily called the practice “Nazi dumping” and claimed the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) was bargaining with suspects so they would leave voluntarily.
Since 1979, the AP analysis found, at least 38 of 66 suspects removed from the United States kept their Social Security benefits.