With the revelations that the Social Security Administration paid $20.5 million in benefits to former members of the Nazi Party, it looks like Congress was a bit on the late side when it came to taking action on this file. In this posting, I want to look at how Nazi Party members ended up living in the United States and why they were allowed to immigrate to a nation that was their avowed enemy during the Second World War.
After the Second World War, as many as 10,000 members of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) landed in the United States. According to a recent book by Eric Lichtblau, some of these Nazis settled in the U.S. with the direct assistance of the American intelligence apparatus who saw these former enemy combatants as useful allies in the battle against the Soviet communist hordes. In fact, one of the most famous "rocket men" whose knowledge brought America into the space race, Wernher von Braun (1912 - 1977), was a card-carrying Nazi. Here is a video with background information on von Braun:
Von Braun Germany's development of the V-1 and V-2 ballistic missiles which were manufactured at a forced labour factory, Mittelwerk (aka Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp complex) which was established in 1944 near Nordhausen Germany with the express purpose of underground production of the V-2 rocket and other armaments. Here is a photograph of the tunnel entrance to Mittelbau:
Here is a photograph showing the camouflaged V-1 and V-2 rocket storage area after the area was captured by Allied forces:
The V-1 was referred to as the "buzz bomb" and was used to terrorize England as shown on this video:
The V-2 took its first flight in 1942 and was used against continental Europe and Great Britain starting in 1944. Here is a video showing the development of the V-2 and shots taken at Peenemeunde to give you a sense of how advanced German rocketry was by the end of the Second World War under the guidance of von Braun:
Here is a video of Wernher von Braun talking about the V-2:
Before the Peenemeunde Rocket Center complex located on the Baltic Sea coast was captured in May 1945 and one day after Adolf Hitler committed suicide in April 1945, von Braun arranged the surrender of hundreds of his top scientists. Under Operation Paperclip, the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency) rounded up 1500 German scientists and technicians starting in August 1945. By 1947, the U.S. had evacuated 1800 technicians and scientists along with 3700 family members to American soil. Largely, this operation was implemented to prevent the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom from gaining access to German rocket technology. The German scientists and their rocket hardware were moved to Fort Bliss, Texas and the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico where they spent the next 15 years working with the U.S. Army on the development of America's ballistic missile program. By using von Braun's knowledge, the American military was able to jump-start its rocket-based weapons program. In 1960, the development of the U.S. rocket program switched to NASA where von Braun became the director of the Marshall Space Flight Center. At Marshall, he became the chief scientist working on the Saturn V launch vehicle, the rocket that would eventually take American astronauts to the Moon.
Other rocket scientists with Nazi Party credentials that were collected during Operation Paperclip included Werner Dahm, Bernhard Tessman, Arthur Rudolph, Kurt Blome (who admitted that he had experimented with plague vaccines on concentration camp prisoners), Hermann Kurzweg, Kondrad Dannenberg, Kurt Debus, Walter Dornberger (eventually Vice President at Bel Aircraft Corporation), Eberhart Rees (eventually director of the Marshall Space Flight Center), Ernst Stuhlinger and Herbertus Strughold
From this background information, it is quite apparent that the relationship between some Nazi scientists and the United States government was a "marriage of convenience". If Nazi Party members had something of value to offer that would help the United States in its existential battle against the Communist hordes, then they received a "pass" for any past misdeeds committed during their tenure as Nazi Party adherents.
Let's close this posting by looking at Congress's answer to the rather touchy "Nazis Among Us" problem, particularly when it came to light that Nazi Party members were getting Social Security Benefits. House Resolution 5739, "No Social Security for Nazis Act" became law on December 18, 2014. The law was introduced to the House on November 19, 2014 by Republican Senator Sam Johnson and, in a rare show of solidarity, it took just over five weeks to pass it into law. Here are some excerpts:
Apparently, some laws are better better passed seventy years late rather than never, particularly once the usefulness of some former Nazi Party members has been exhausted.