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The Associated Press recently reported that many suspected Nazi war criminals who once lived in the United States and faced investigation by the Justice Department continue to collect Social Security payments through a legal loophole, despite having left the country and renounced their U.S. citizenship. B’nai B’rith International supports changing the law to close this loophole and deny Social Security to such individuals. We are pleased that members in both chambers of Congress have announced their intentions to introduce bipartisan legislation to address this problem.

Since moving abroad, these former Nazis have lived undisturbed lives, collecting additional entitlements from the governments of the countries in which they reside. B’nai B’rith urges these governments to cease providing benefits to such individuals and force them to stand trial.

The Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, a unit within the Justice Department formerly referred to as the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), has done exceptional work since its inception to remove Nazi war criminals from the U.S. We commend this office for the vital work it has done in helping to bring these individuals to justice, including deporting many of them to countries where they should be subject to prosecution.

However, the reason these suspected Nazis collected—and continue to collect—Social Security checks has to do with the specific process through which they were removed from the country. Current U.S. law, unfortunately, strips benefits only from those suspected war criminals who are deported—not from those who abandon their U.S. citizenship and leave the country before the deportation process concludes. In order to expedite the process of ridding this country of those Nazi criminals living in our midst, individuals under investigation by the OSI were, at times, permitted to renounce their citizenship and leave the country. It is disturbing that, upon returning to the countries from which they originated, many of these individuals were never prosecuted for war crimes—a highly negative reflection on the governments they live under.

For too long these Nazi perpetrators have been able to collect Social Security from the U.S. government—as well as a variety of social welfare benefits from their native countries—all the while living comfortably and successfully avoiding punishment for their crimes.

A change in the law would deprive Social Security benefits from those who left the country and renounced their citizenship as the result of an OSI investigation. These former Nazis are no more deserving of Social Security benefits than those whom the U.S. actually deported.