Review Reveals Few Nazi Suspects Lost Pensions

According to an official review that was published on Tuesday, tens of thousands of war crime suspects were possibly able to continue receiving disability pensions, despite a law that was passed almost two decades ago that ordered them to be revoked. Only 99 people lost their payments.

The Labor Ministry commissioned the review and posted it on its website this past week, which concludes several details that led to the poor success rate, which involved reviewing tens of thousands of cases and were the result of the lack of digitization of the key files as well as legal challenges posed while also facing difficulty implementing the law.

The law was passed in 1998 and the expectation attached was that up to 50,000 people would lose their pensions, according to the report. The review found, however, that there were only 99 people who had evidence against them that indicated they participated in “crimes against the principles of humanity,” as the Associated Press shares. Research covered the years 1998-2013.

Efraim Zuroff, top Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, states that “The results are incredibly disappointing.” He continued, “I never thought in my worst nightmares that the number would be so low.”

The Labor Ministry relayed that the report reveals the expectations that the law raised in 1998 “have certainly not been fulfilled.” The ministry does state that the revocation of disability pensions “is still possible in the future.”

The publication notes how widespread the recipients of the pensions that were approved were.

“In 1950, West Germany approved special pensions for ‘victims of war’ for those injured in World War II, at which time some 4.4 million people qualified for payments. Recipients ranged from civilians injured in Allied bombings to SS death camp guards, as well as their widows and some other dependents.”

One recipient included the widow of assassinated top Nazi Reinhard Heydrich, who was the Holocaust’s main architect, Lina Heydrich. She died in 1985.

Outrage about possible war criminals who were receiving compensation as opposed to many Jewish as well as other Nazi victims caused the law to be changed in 1998 to exclude anyone who had committed crimes against the principles of humanity or the rule of law.

At that point there were still 940,000 people still receiving pensions. Due to Germany’s strict privacy laws, this meant the reports that researchers had were incomplete and could not specify how many recipients were former military members. They were able to determine that eight states reported in 1998 that ” a total of 23,501 former SS troops were receiving disability pensions. The remaining eight states failed to respond.”

The publication notes how the Wiesenthal Center assisted to determine who should be excluded from the pensions.

“After the law was passed, the Wiesenthal Center, under contract from the government, supplied more than 70,000 names of war crimes suspects to the Labor Ministry, to be checked against pension payments. German historian Stefan Klemp, who helped compile the Wiesenthal Center’s list, was the main author of the new analysis commissioned by the Ministry. Klemp said he was not permitted to comment on the report.”

Reports and investigation further determined that the state of Baden-Wurttemberg was able to identify former Auschwitz SS guard Heinz K. as a recipient of pension and who was also possibly responsible for war crimes. His last name was not released and he is now deceased. Before his death he told investigators that he worked in a radio room and then the kitchens, but was not involved in any killings.

The case was then shelved even though the report does state that the Ludwigsburg prosecutors had noted that K’s “position in Auschwitz as a post and block leader was in complete contradiction” to his claim. Block leaders were responsible for the discipline and punishment of prisoners and were involved in harsh treatment and even killings.

[Featured Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

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