A unanimous (not just bipartisan) vote in the House Tuesday is a late, but welcome, victory for justice. Under the new bill, AP reports, suspected Nazi war criminals would be blocked from receiving U.S. government pension benefits.
When something is so right — redressing something so wrong — even the shallowed halls of Congress can get it right. But why now? And why has it taken so long? And how could it have happened?
We often take exception to the reportage and biases of the Associated Press. But we must give credit where credit is due. This new bill — and its across-the-board support — may be seen as a direct result of an AP investigative report.
AP reporters found that the Justice Department had used a legal loophole to encourage 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.”
For its part, the Social Security Administration had refused AP’s request for the total number of Nazi suspects who received benefits and the dollar amounts. AP appealed the agency’s denial of the information through the Freedom of Information Act.
It should be noted that Social Security payments to Nazi war criminals have continued at the same time as the very solvency and sustainability of Social Security have come under question. The introduction to “The Future Financial Status of the Social Security Program,” by Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, says:
“As a result of changes to Social Security enacted in 1983, benefits are now expected to be payable in full on a timely basis until 2037, when the trust fund reserves are projected to become exhausted. At the point where the reserves are used up, continuing taxes are expected to be enough to pay 76 percent of scheduled benefits. Thus, the Congress will need to make changes to the scheduled benefits and revenue sources for the program in the future.”
How could paying Nazis Social Security have happened? As with all things governmental, it’s not so simple. Most of the story is still shrouded in secrecy. But now we know enough of the plot points to get a schematic picture of the story line.
The story actually begins earlier, but it’s instructive to jump to the Yalta Conference in the Crimea in February 1945. President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union to plan the final stages of the war against Nazi Germany.
The U.S. and England needed Russia in order to defeat Germany. But it was an alliance of enemies. One look at the photos is enough to see that the “Allies” were already planning how to later fight each other. FDR and Churchill look as though a waiter had served them Molotov Cocktails.
During the war, U.S. operatives had already begun cutting deals with Nazi officers, offering them freedom in exchange for working with U.S. Intelligence against the Communists.
One sensational example was the case of Klaus Barbie, chief of the Gestapo in Lyon, France, known as “the Butcher of Lyon.”
To pursue Nazi war criminals, the U.S. Department of Justice formed the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) in 1979. In an official paper, “Klaus Barbie and the United States Government: A Report to the Attorney General of the United States,” OSI Director Allan A. Ryan wrote:
“As the investigation of Klaus Barbie has shown, officers of the United States government were directly responsible for protecting a person wanted by the government of France on criminal charges and in arranging his escape from the law.”
Why did the Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Army (CIC), help Barbie escape and avoid capture for 33 years? While the French government and the U.S. Justice Department were searching for Barbie, CIC agent Robert S. Taylor met an intelligence specialist whose friend Barbie “had excellent connections.” Taylor added that Barbie was “strongly anti-Communist and a Nazi idealist who believes that he and his beliefs were betrayed by the Nazis in power.”
In 1971, Nazi-hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld found Barbie in Bolivia. He was eventually extradited to France, tried and sentenced to life in prison. He died in 1991.
The use of Social Security payments to encourage Nazi war criminals to leave the United States is an even more complex issue than protecting evil agents. On one hand, the very idea is reprehensible. On the other hand, many survivors were only too willing to be rid of the vermin — even if it meant paying them to leave.
Finally, thanks to the Associated Press and the U.S. Congress, justice has been served.