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Jews in Germany Charge Govt. with “bad Faith” on Indemnification

The bad faith evinced in a recent interpretation of a clause in the new amendment to the Federal Indemnification Law for individual victims of Nazism has been indignantly denounced in statements addressed to the Bonn Ministry of Finance and to various State Ministries of Finance by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the representative Jewish body in this country.

This is the first strongly worded protest against German indemnification practices voiced by an authoritative Jewish group since last spring, when the unanimous adoption of liberalized indemnification regulations ushered in a period of good will. The issue now at stake is a complex and legalistic one, but the German attitude is so patently spiteful that Dr. H. G. van Dam, secretary general of the Jewish Council, has made no secret of his vexation.

Until this summer former German Jews who had returned to Germany for whatever reason were considerably worse off than, for instance, German prisoners of war or Nazi criminals released from custody. To put Jewish “returnees” on a somewhat comparable footing at least, the Bundestag included in the amendment enacted this summer a clause pledging an “immediate-aid payment” of $1,425 to former German residents of either German citizenship or “ethnic affiliation,” provided they had “emigrated, were deported or expelled” due to Nazi persecution and came back to West Germany or West Berlin after the war to establish permanent residence. Half of the amount is to be deducted from certain indemnification claims to which most such “returnees” later become entitled.

The payment had been awaited with particular impatience by the small number of German Jews who, after being deported to such camps as Oswiecim in Poland, Riga in Latvia and Theresienstadt in Czechoslavakia, managed to survive the Nazi regime and returned to Germany. Recently, however, “immediate-aid payments” have been refused on the basis that since the German authorities were in occupation of the concentration camps, outside Germany, the victims had not been “deported or expelled.”

That interpretation was scored as an outrage by the Jewish Central Council, “since shipment to a deportation or extermination camp outside the German borders constitutes a particularly grievous case of deportation.” The same view is held, so the Council pointed out, by the chairman and deputy chairman of the Bundestag Indemnification Committee, who emphasize that it is cases such as the former concentration camp inmates which they had particularly in mind in formulating the text of the now disputed clause.

“We are profoundly taken aback,” the Central Council charged, “that so restrictive an interpretation, which runs counter to the parliamentary will, was begun to be applied during the Bundestag summer recess. We cannot conceive that any of the political parties or the Federal Government would approve.”

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