Claims Conference Ratifies Reparations Pact with Germany

The policy committee of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, representing 23 major Jewish organizations throughout the world, today ratified agreements signed by the Conference with the West German Federal Republic and with the State of Israel under which it is to receive $107,000,000 in settlement of material claims against Germany and under which West Germany agreed to improve its restitution and indemnification legislation.

The conference also voted to incorporate itself in order to enable it to discharge its responsibilities under the agreements.

Dr. Nahum Goldmann, chairman of the Conference, who signed the agreement with German Chancellor Konrad Ademuer at Luxemburg, told the conference that “we are all agreed, and the majority of Jewish public opinion supports our view, that the negotiations have ended successfully for Israel and the Conference although we did not obtain all we wanted.” He said that “we have achieved great improvements in restitution and indemnification for hundreds of thousands of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, even though we could not obtain German acceptance of our demands concerning Jews from Austria and a number of similar issues.”

GERMANS OPPOSED GLOBAL PAYMENTS TO CONFERENCE

Dr. Goldmann disclosed that during the negotiations the Germans strenuously opposed global payment to the Conference, maintaining that material settlement should be with Israel alone and Conference negotiations should be restricted to questions of legislation. He pointed out that the concept of a global payment to a nongovernmental ad hoc body possessing no juridical status in international law was admittedly unprecedented, and the achievement of securing German agreement was not only important because it enabled additional aid to Jewish victims of Nazism, but also because it established a precedent of major significance.

Referring to settlement of Israel’s claims, Dr. Goldmann declared that “our support of Israel’s claim was, from the very first, an important factor in obtaining Germany’s commitment.” The Israel Government, he declared, was appreciative of this fact. He pointed out that the settlement gives Israel a unique opportunity to build up her industry, agriculture, transportation system and power but warned that the American Jewish community “must not take the view that the goods received from Germany obviate Israel’s need for financial assistance from abroad.” Gains from the settlement, he said, “could quickly be converted into losses if American Jews should decide to cut down on UJA assistance and on Israel bond purchases.”

Speaking of the moral implications of the agreement, Dr. Goldmann recalled the controversy over acceptance of the German bid to negotiate and said that “we would have committed a moral injustice, a sin of omission, had we refused to negotiate, however delicate and difficult it all seemed in its initial stages. Even if these negotiations had not involved material benefits to Israel and the Jewish victims of Nazism, our generation still would have been morally bound to make every possible effort to obtain recognition of the moral principle that a nation which has committed crimes against our people, must make amends. The fact that a powerful and sovereign state has done so establishes a historic precedent of importance to all people.”

Dr. Goldmann referred to the “immeasurable assistance” of Secretary of State Dean Acheson. British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and U.S. High Commissioner John J. McCloy, but said that “Germany would not have been forced into these agreements had her leaders been reluctant or unwilling.”

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN JEWS, GERMANS WILL BE SETTLED IN FUTURE

The Conference chairman made it clear that in his view, “the Luxemburg agreements have not settled the historical issues of the relations between the Germans and Jewry following the Nazi desecration of our people… History alone can settle them and much will depend on the future development of Germany, her desire and ability to extirpate the residues of Nazism, racism and anti-Semitism. It will take time for Germany to achieve this. I know that the German Chancellor and the President of the Federal Republic are eager to embark upon such a policy, and are already considering concrete measures in this general direction. We shall welcome such policy and look forward to its successful implementation.”

Dr. Goldmann paid warm tribute to Chancellor Adenauer, saying that he had been convinced of his sincerity when he first met him in London in 1951 and received from him a letter accepting Israel’s claim for one billion dollars as the basis of negotiations. He said that Dr. Adenauer’s determination carried the issue over opposition within the German Government to acceptance of the global payments and the legislative program that will cost Germany up to two billion dollars, and over pressure from the Arabs.

He eulogized members of the negotiating teams and members of the Conference presidium and said that “our cooperation hitherto augurs well for the future.” He told the session that, “in all humility, and without indulgence in self praise, we may state today that we have rendered a great service to Israel and to the Jewish people. May I add that I am happy for having pursued this policy, for having taken the initiative to convene the Conference and for meeting with the German Chancellor. I look back upon my effort of the past year with gratification and some measure of pride.

“Our generation of Jews witnessed the greatest disaster in all Jewish history, but also the greatest achievement in contemporary Jewish history–the creation of the State of Israel, “he concluded. “The rebuilding of Jewish life from the horror perpetrated by the Nazis confronted us with unparalleled and unprecedented problems. The negotiations with Germany were among the most formidable of these problems. We met the challenge with dignity, solemnity and a high sense of responsibility. Above all else, we should be proud of our spectacular contribution towards the triumph of justice and morality.”

Moses A, Leavitt, who headed the Conference negotiating team at The Hague, presented a detailed report on the legislative aspects of the agreement to which Germany had committed itself. He described it as “a program which is aimed at providing greater benefits to a larger number of victims of Nazism seeking restitution and indemnification. He expressed himself as “hopeful that the German Parlia- ment will enact the required legislation and appropriate funds for implementation so that those victims who have waited so long would now be granted what is rightfully theirs.”

BEN GURION PRAISES GOLDMANN ROLE IN NEGOTIATIONS

Premier David Ben Gurion of Israel, in a letter read to the session, praised Dr. Goldmann for “the notable part you have played in concluding the agreement on the claims to reparations from the West German Government by the State of Israel and the Jewish people.” He declared that “your energy, wisdom and tact, as well as your courage, had a decisive part in those negotiations.”

The premier stressed the importance of the participation of the Jewish organizations in the negotiations and extolled the “harmonious cooperation” between the representatives of Israel and of the Conference. He expressed the government’s appreciation to the organizations “for their invaluable help, good will and dignified stand” and its thanks for “their magnificent share in this historic achievement.”

Mr. Ben Gurion said that while it was too early to assess the practical value of the agreement, “it is difficult to over-emphasize its moral and political significance.” For the first time, he said, “a precedent has been established whereby a Great Power undertakes, under moral pressure only, to pay reparations to victims of its former Government. For the first time in the history of the Jewish people, oppressed and plundered for hundreds of years in all countries of the Old World, the oppressor and plunderer has had to hand back some of the spoils and pay collective compensation for part of the material losses.

“This,” the premier declared, “is without any doubt an outcome of the rebirth of the State of Israel. The rights and interests of Jewry are no longer undefended; they now have their defender.”

The premier added that the success of the negotiations “enhances the prestige of the Jewish people throughout the world and strengthens international ethics.” If fulfilled by the Germans, he said, it will serve as “an impressive contribution towards consolidating the economic independence of Israel and as a substantial compensation to those victims of Nazi persecution who are still alive.”

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