BONN (Jun. 19)
An implied threat by Finance Minister Fritz Schaeffer that indemnification and restitution payments to victims of Nazism would be slashed after the national elections in September drew a protest today from the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
In a public speech, Dr. Schaeffer asserted that the Bonn Parliament had not “officially pondered the consequences” of the indemnification legislation it has written and that “these laws may have to be revised” after the elections. This threat was voiced at a time when Nazi victims have reason to hope that the indemnification program might be completed by its target date–1962.
Dr. Schaeffer charged that indemnification legislation will obligate Germany to pay something in the neighborhood of $4,000,000,000 rather than the less than half that sum originally estimated. He blamed these payments, which amount to no more than one percent of the annual Federal budget, for the current inflationary trend in government spending.
The executive of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, at a session today, called Dr. Schaeffer’s remarks “distressing” and “rash” and demanded “unequivocal clarification” by the Federal Government. The Jews charged that the Finance Minister’s threats violate democratic principles. They specifically noted that Dr. Schaeffer did not express criticism of far larger expenditures to benefit other groups, specifically the payment of pensions for former Nazi officials.
Dr. Schaeffer’s words are particularly significant because of the powerful position he holds in West German public life and the fact that he is one of the contenders to succeed 81-year-old Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. Ousted from the post of Minister-President of Bavaria by the American Military Government in 1945 and “excluded from political activity for life” shortly afterwards, he was within five years in a position almost to torpedo the negotiations for the Israel-German reparations pact.
It took a public blast by Otto Kuester, deputy to Prof. Franz Boehm, chief German negotiator, to loosen Dr. Schaeffer’s blockade of the negotiations, Herr Kuester paid for his courage with his political life, but the Luxembourg Treaty was signed. Although a member and responsible minister of the Adenauer Government, Dr. Schaeffer demonstratively abstained from voting on that pact.