The search for Nazi collaborators in the United States / by Christoph Schiessl.
Since the end of World War II, approximately 10,000 Nazi war criminals have entered the United States, mostly through the Displaced Persons Acts of 1948 and 1950 and the Refugee Relief Act of 1953. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) have investigated thousands of accusations against individuals residing in the United States, dealing with a variety of Nazi related war crimes, ranging from beatings and shootings of Jews and others by camp guards and policemen to planning and participating in brutal medical experiments on human beings. Most suspects were Ukrainian, Baltic, or ethnic German (so-called Volksdeutsche) collaborators, who immigrated to the United States in the late 1940s and 1950s. For decades, government authorities did little to locate and prosecute these individuals. Only in the 1970s did the federal government intensify its search for Nazi war criminals. First, in 1978, Congress passed an amendment to the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952, which barred the entry of Nazi war criminals and made easier the prosecution of such individuals already in the United States. Second, in 1979, the U.S. government created the OSI, which for over thirty years has worked on trying to locate and then denaturalize and extradite or deport Nazi war criminals.Most Americans in the late 1940s and 1950s discussed and contemplated the issue of Nazi criminality in very specific ways. The dominant Cold War atmosphere surely played a role in this, as Nazi Germany seemed defeated and the Soviet Union emerged as the foe that was out to destroy the American way of life. Already at the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at Nuremberg the Holocaust was not front and center, and the number of Nazi war criminals imprisoned in Germany dwindled significantly in the early 1950s until almost all had been released by the late 1950s. In this atmosphere it is not surprising that thousands of Nazi collaborators could enter the United States via legal immigration channels. U.S. officials at best could not ascertain or at worst willfully ignored the questionable past of such individuals from the Baltic states, the Ukraine, and the many Volksdeutsche. The Eichmann trial in 1961, the series of Soviet trials of Nazi collaborators in the early 1960s, and the Arab-Israeli wars in 1967 and 1973 in particular changed the dynamic somewhat. Some individuals, like Simon Wiesenthal, started investigating. As a result, the first major case of a Nazi collaborator in the United States, that of camp guard Hermine Braunsteiner-Ryan, made the news in the 1960s. Finally, the 1970s saw an intensification of Holocaust discourse in general and a focus on Nazi war criminals in the United States in particular. Individual politicians like Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY) pressured the U.S. government to act, which led to the formation of the OSI in 1979. The OSI has been responsible for the denaturalization and removal of over one hundred individuals. Since the passage of time will solve the issue of Nazi war criminals eventually, the OSI recently has taken on the task of locating, denaturalizing, and deporting all war criminals residing in the United States.
Record last modified: 2018-05-18 16:20:00
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