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No more Social Security for ex-Nazis

RICHARD LARDNER,
Associated Press

Washington – — President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law a measure that bars suspected Nazi war criminals from collecting U.S. Social Security benefits.

An Associated Press investigation, which was the impetus for the No Social Security for Nazis Act, found that dozens of former Nazis collected millions of dollars in retirement benefits after being forced to leave the United States. Recipients ranged from the SS guards who patrolled the Third Reich’s network of camps where millions of Jews died to a rocket scientist who helped develop the V-2 rocket that Nazi Germany used to attack London.

The speed with which the legislation moved underscored the outrage AP’s findings triggered among lawmakers on Capitol Hill — and American taxpayers. The House unanimously approved the bill Dec. 2 and the Senate passed it by voice vote just two days later.

Mike King, a Vietnam veteran and a retired police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, gets a Social Security check of $900 a month. That’s less than half of what he could be getting based on his years in the workforce. But his benefits are reduced because of a rule that docks retirees who simultaneously collect a public pension. It’s “appalling,” he said, that former Nazis collected benefits when he and others in his position are forced to accept less.

“It is a slap in the face, not only to every American citizen but to every American veteran,” King said.

The bill signed into law by Obama terminates Social Security payments for individuals stripped of their American citizenships due to their participation in Nazi persecutions during World War II. U.S. law previously mandated a higher threshold — a final order of deportation — before a person’s Social Security benefits could be terminated.

By lowering the threshold to loss of citizenship, a step known as denaturalization, the bill effectively shuts a loophole that for years had allowed suspected Nazis to continue receiving benefits even after being expelled from the U.S. for their roles in Third Reich’s atrocities.

AP found that since 1979 at least 38 of 66 suspects removed from the United States kept their Social Security benefits. Many of these former Nazis got in to the U.S. after the war by lying about their pasts and became U.S. citizens.

Among those whose benefits will be cut off because of the new law are Jakob Denzinger, a former Auschwitz guard, and Martin Hartmann, a former guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany.