German Minister Causes Storm in Urging Revision of Payments to Jews

Stormy protests were voiced here today by Jewish leaders and members of the West German Parliament, over a statement made by a Cabinet member that the payment of restitution to Jews by Germany would lead to the devaluation of the German currency and is likely to endanger Germany’s economy.

The Cabinet member who expressed this view is Justice Minister Fritz Schaffer, formerly Minister of Finance. He spoke at a meeting in Bavaria calling for basic changes in the German compensation law. He implied that compensation payments to Jews would total 29 billion marks (approximately $7,000,000,000) by 1961.

Dr. Schaeffer charged that “foreign attorneys alone would obtain nearly $1, 500,000,000 in fees, representing 20 percent of their clients” claims He urged the Bonn Parliament to admit its “fallacy” in pledging not to change the compensation law. He suggested the limitation of payments to any individual to 9,000 marks a year Otherwise, he asserted, the stability of German currency would be endangered.

Dr. H.G. van Dam, head of the Council of Jews in Germany, called Dr. Schaeffer’s figures “non-objective,” noting that previous estimates of the total compensation bill have varied between six and 16 billion deutsche marks but had never been computed at 29 billions. Actual payments thus far, he pointed out, have not exceeded three billion marks.

Two Socialist deputies, Karl Mummer and Walter Mendel, said Dr. Schaeffer’s remarks were made at the wrong time and at the wrong place They said he should have expressed his opinion in official circles rather than at a public meeting They charged the remarks were liable to re-awaken anti-Semitic feelings in Germany.

Dr. van Dam, in taking issue with the German Minister, said that far from being threatened by devaluation as a result of compensation claims, German currency had gained in strength during the very period that compensation has been in effect. He stressed the fact that Dr. Schaeffer had limited his discussion to compensation for Jews and failed to discuss the financial burdens imposed by meeting other obligations accruing from the Hitler period.

The Jewish leader also hit at the Justice Minister’s estimates of attorneys’ fees as “over-calculation.” He also noted that Dr. Schaeffer’s figures included the total Israel reparations bill in the “compensation” figure Putting a 9,000 mark limit on annual payments, he charged, would be a violation of the spirit and letter of the compensation law.

NEXT STORY