Bonn Action Threatens Planned Improvements in Indemnification Law

Long awaited improvements in the German Federal Indemnification Law for individual victims of Nazism are once again threatened by the latest action of the Upper House of the West German Parliament. The Federal Council, reviewing draft amendments to the law, has rejected an amendment which would have extended benefits of the law to victims–many Jews–who were formerly residents of territory now incorporated within East Germany.

The major reason for the rejection was that the amendment would have saddled the individual German states with half the indemnification burden. The Council, composed of representatives of the various states, thereupon turned down the amendment which had been two years in the works. It had been approved by a working group representing a Bundestag committee, the Federal Government and the Ministry of Finance.

In all, the Council recommended 74 changes in the government-sponsored amendment measure. Most of these are of a minor, technical nature, but some worsen the provisions of the Indemnification Law, such as a change which would halve the maximum amount of indemnification benefits for deprivation of property.

The changes, however, are not yet final. They must be forwarded to the Cabinet which must either accept them or, failing that, must send the original version together with a statement on the Council’s proposed changes to the Bundestag, the Lower House. The Bundestag must act on some version in three different readings and then send its measure to the Upper House. Failure of the two houses to agree would result in the appointment of a conference committee to iron out differences.

One result of the Council’s action will certainly be to add further delays in the long needed changes in the Indemnification Law. It may succeed in killing the section which would be of benefit to Jews who formerly lived in what is now East Germany, the major improvement in the Indemnification Law of benefit to Jews.

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