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OSIJEK, Croatia - Dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and SS guards collected millions of dollars in U.S. Social Security benefits after being forced out of the U.S., an Associated Press investigation found. The payments, underwritten by American taxpayers, flowed through a legal loophole that gave the U.S. Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the U.S. If they agreed to go, or simply fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal U.S. government records.
There are at least four living beneficiaries, including Jakob Denzinger, who patrolled the grounds at the Auschwitz camp complex in Poland. He fled to Germany from Ohio in 1989 after learning de-naturalization proceedings against him were underway. Denzinger, who resettled in Croatia, wouldn't discuss his situation when questioned by an AP reporter but his son in the U.S. confirmed his father receives Social Security payments and said he deserved them.
Since 1979, the AP analysis found, at least 38 of 66 suspects removed from the country kept their Social Security benefits. The Social Security Administration expressed outrage in 1997 over the use of benefits, the documents show, and blowback in foreign capitals reverberated at the highest levels of government.
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said in an emailed statement that Social Security payments never were employed to persuade Nazi suspects to depart voluntarily. The Social Security Administration refused the AP's request for the total number of Nazi suspects who received benefits and the dollar amounts of those payments. Spokesman William "BJ" Jarrett said the agency does not track data specific to Nazi cases. A further barrier, Jarrett said, is that there is no exception in U.S. privacy law that "allows us to disclose information because the individual is a Nazi war criminal or an accused Nazi war criminal." The department also declined to make the acting commissioner or another senior agency official available for an interview.