BONN (Dec. 21)
The Bundestag, Germany’s Lower House, has approved in a first reading the long-delayed draft amendment to the Federal Indemnification Law for individual victims of Nazism, after the government had first rejected all changes for the worse introduced last month by the Bonn Upper House.
The government spokesman, State Secretary Hartmann of the Ministry of Finance, told the Bundestag that the cabinet could not go along with the action of the Upper House, the Federal Council, in excluding from indemnification benefits those Nazi victims who originally resided in East Germany. He also repudiated other changes for the worse recommended by the Federal Council, such as the barring of civil-law suits against German employers of concentration camp labor or the cutting in half of the maximum amount that can be paid for deprivation of property.
On the other hand, the government also turned down one of the major improvements that had been proposed by the Upper House. Except for minor technical and editorial modifications, it upheld the text of the original government draft that had been formulated after two years of deliberations by a “working group” consisting of Bundestag deputies as well as fiscal experts of the Federal and State Governments. The present amendment was the most that West Germany could do, State Secretary Harmann declared, and no further improvements were to be expected.
In line with German legislative procedure, the draft amendment was sent to the Upper House in October, after its initial approval by the government. The Upper House, made up of delegates from West Germany’s constituent states, proposed 74 changes in November. Through State Secretary Hartmann, the government now has communicated to the Bundestag, a statement of its generally negative views regarding these Federal Council changes. Thereupon, the Bundestag in a first reading, voted for the Government version, then assigned it to the Indemnification Committee and to the Budget Committee for further study.
In the early part of next year, possibly in February, the two Committees will report the amendment out. It is certain to receive the consent of the Bundestag in a second and third hearing. Next, the bill is returned for final approval to the Upper House It is hoped that the latter will raise no further objections but if it would insist upon adhering to its own recommendations, the matter would have to be referred ### conference committee of both Houses.