Literature of the Holocaust
maintained by Al Filreis

SS veterans are receiving German pensions in U.S.

December 20, 1996

NEW YORK (Reuter) - Hundreds of veterans of Hitler's elite multi-national force, the Waffen SS, are living in the United States and Britain and receiving pensions from the German government, a Jewish group said Wednesday.

The World Jewish Congress said it was calling on the German government to make public the names of those receiving pensions in the United States so that the Justice Department's Office of Special investigations (OSI) can determine if they legally entered the country or are wanted for war crimes.

While it has been known for years that some SS men emigrated to the United States after the war, former OSI chief Neal Sher said the discovery that they are receiving pensions from the German government could be a major help.

``If you have people receiving pensions you can find out about them and check them out,'' Sher said.

The Waffen SS was Hitler's multi-national brigade with units drawn from Germany, the Baltic states and Ukraine. It had 165,000 members in 1941, but by war's end there were some 800,000 men in 40 divisions mostly on the eastern front.

Waffen SS units were directly involved in some of the worst atrocities and mass killings of the war.

Sher said many Waffen SS men entered the United States legally in the 1950s when rules were relaxed relating to those who served from the Baltic states and Ukraine. ``Being in the Latvian Legion did not disqualify you from entering,'' he said.

World Jewish Congress Vice President Kalman Sultanik said the group discovered that the German government was paying pensions of about $500 a month to several hundred veterans in the United States and Britain when it was checking out a case in Latvia.

``We complained to the German finance ministry that 1,500 former Latvian Waffen SS men were receiving pensions while 97 Holocaust victims were receiving nothing,'' he said.

He added that it was outrageous that Waffen SS men in the United States were receiving pensions directly from Germany while Holocaust survivors were required to prove that they had been in a concentration camp for at least six months before being eligible for German reparations.

Sultanik said negotiations were underway with the German government to liberalize the restrictive critera under which Holocaust survivors can receive reparations.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan triggered an international outcry when he visited a military cemetary at Bitburg which turned out to contain the graves of Waffen SS soldiers.

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