US report shows Nazis given 'safe haven' after WWII
A newly revealed "secret history" written by US officials has detailed how successive administrations provided refuge to Nazi war criminals in the aftermath of World War II.
"America which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted became -- in some small measure -- a safe haven for the persecutors as well," said a report from the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) first revealed by The New York Times and examined by AFP.
Created in 1979 to hunt Nazis residing on US soil, the OSI has since merged with other units in the Justice Department. But the 600-page report -- which the government worked to keep hidden for four years -- raises numerous ethical questions about US practices after the collapse of the Third Reich in 1945.
The report highlights "ethical compromises involved in the US policy in using former high-ranking Nazi officials as informants and in putting to work Nazi scientists for the American space programme or other classified military projects," said Efraim Zuroff, heads of the unit tracking down former Nazis at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
"While there is little new information in the revelations," Zuroff wrote in an op-ed piece for The Guardian newspaper, the issues are worth re-examining, he said.
An administration official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, insisted the report was a draft copy that "was never finalized and contains errors and omissions," but adding that finalizing the report would have "diverted too many resources."
The history of granting entry to German and Austrian scientists in the years after Nazi Germany's fall, to accelerate victory over Japan to begin with, and then to gain a technological edge over the Soviet Union, has been documented.
The report however provided key details on procedures for welcoming individuals with Nazi pasts, and notes they were granted entry to the United States "knowingly."
The Department of Justice "is committed to transparency and providing information in accordance with relevant laws," spokeswoman Laura Sweeney told AFP, saying redactions in the first revelation of the report were based "on privacy and other considerations under the law."
Due to the amount of deleted passages, the report in its entirety was eventually given to The New York Times.
David Sobel, counsel at the non-profit National Security Archive, pointed out that now "we can compare the redacted document with the complete text of the original report, it is clear that the Justice Department is withholding information without legal justification."
Noting the administration of President Barack Obama and his Justice Department had pledged an "unprecedented" level of transparency, the issue of the OSI report "provides a troubling example of how far the reality is from the rhetoric," added Sobel.
"We're still covering up, we're still hiding the role that some in our country played by some perverse sense of national interest. I think it's time that our country knew," Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman said on NBC this week.
© 2010 AFP