Not much legislation can get a unanimous vote from the House of Representatives these days, but the No Social Security for Nazis Act cleared that hurdle Tuesday when it passed by a vote of 420 to zero.
The legislation prohibits anyone whose citizenship was revoked because of their participation in Nazi activities from receiving Social Security benefits. An Associated Press investigation published in late October found that dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and SS guards had collected Social Security payments totaling millions of dollars even after they were forced to leave the United States. There are currently four living beneficiaries receiving payments, the investigation found.
The payments occurred because of a legal loophole used by the Justice Department to persuade suspected former Nazis who had settled in the U.S. to leave: Go by your own volition, and you can keep receiving benefits.
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The four living beneficiaries include Martin Hartmann, a former SS guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Germany, and Jakob Denzinger, who helped guard the Auschwitz complex in Poland, the AP reported. Hartmann moved to Berlin from Arizona in 2007, and Denzinger moved to Germany from Ohio in 1989 and now lives in Croatia.
Last month, a group of lawmakers from both parties and chambers of Congress introduced legislation to close the loophole. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, the top two senators on the Senate Finance Committee.
"The World must never forget the six million Jews and other innocents murdered in the Holocaust. America has worked to prevent Nazis from entering the country and reaping the benefits of U.S. citizenship, including Social Security," said Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, one of the members who introduced the bill in the House in November. "However, due to a loophole, some Nazis who came to America continue to receive Social Security benefits. That is just plain wrong!"