As an incentive to get them off American soil, Nazi war criminals and suspects were in many cases allowed to keep their Social Security benefits. That left dozens of them—at least 38 of 66 suspects since 1979—to receive millions in US taxpayer dollars over the years, the AP reports following a two-year investigation. At least four are still alive and receiving benefits. Working against closing the loophole is the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, which was formed in 1979 to rid the country of Nazi war criminals as quickly as possible.
Nazis couldn't be tried in the US because their crimes were committed abroad and rarely against Americans. Attempting to deport them could take a decade, a top Justice Department official says, and countries were rarely willing to take them. The department instead tried to get its targets to leave voluntarily, a process that resulted in the maintenance of their Social Security benefits, the AP notes. "The goal is still to remove these people as quickly as possible, and the fact that as soon as we move to the deportation stage they run the risk of losing their benefit(s) is still an encouragement to leave," the official notes. The Justice Department says it's not using benefits as a bargaining method, but the process has caused a running feud with the State Department, which calls the system "Nazi dumping." Click for the full piece. (More Justice Department stories.)