Bonn Passes Improved Indemnification Law; Jews to Benefit by $400,000,000

Jewish victims of Nazism may benefit to the extent of $400,000,000 in the course of the next eight years as a result of improvements contained in a draft amendment to the Federal Indemnification Law for individual Nazi victims passed today by the Federal Council, the upper house of the West German Parliament.

The draft amendment will now be returned to the Federal Cabinet, which must approve the modifications proposed by the Federal Council. Deliberations will then be resumed in the Indemnification Committee of the Bundestag, the lower house. Next, the amendment must receive, in three separate readings, the assent of the full Bundestag. Although its approval is assured, the matter will probably not come to a vote before early 1956. If all goes well, the amendment will take effect next April.

The new measure constitutes a complete overhaul and rewriting of the 1953 Federal Indemnification Law, whose worst shortcomings and injustices it is designed to remedy. Main beneficiaries will be Jews from Germany. Jewish victims of Nazism from other countries who did not belong to the “German linguistic or cultural sphere,” will profit from the new amendment only in exceptional cases.

With respect to the Nazi burning and wrecking of synagogues, the draft actually restricts the indemnification rights presently vested in Jewish communities and in the successor organizations. The restriction has already evoked strong protests to the Bonn Minister of Finance from the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization and Dr. H. G. van Dam, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Under the amendment, Nazi victims who originally resided in East Germany are put on an equal footing with those from West Germany. This means that Jews from East Berlin, Breslau, Leipzig, Dresden, Koenigsberg etc., can now file claims to the full extent of the law, provided only that they have either emigrated to a country of the Western bloc or moved to West Germany. The few Jews still living in East Germany cannot, in other words, ask compensation from West Germany.

The maximum amounts that may be paid for various indemnification categories have been raised. If the Nazi victim dies before payment has been effected, his claims will henceforth devolve upon his heirs in many cases.

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