Jewish Mission Issues Report on Indemnification Payments in Germany

Payments to Nazi victims under the West German Federal Indemnification Law can be completed by March 31, 1963, the statutory deadline, if German officials speed up the pace of compensation, according to a study of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany made public here today.

The report of a three-man study mission which toured 12 German cities at the invitation of the Bonn Government, recommended: 1. The Federal Government advance money to those states which cannot immediately finance full payment of indemnification claims; 2. All indemnification offices put into effect uniform procedures for processing claims; 3. The indemnification committee of the Bonn Parliament should press for improvements in the basic law or implementing regulations which will carry out the spirit as well as the letter of the indemnification law.

The report called unfounded astronomical estimates of the final cost to Germany of the indemnification program. The preparation of realistic cost estimates, the report pointed out, can only be undertaken some six to nine months following the close of the filing deadline, March 31, 1958. The number and character of claims pending would then be subject to a fairly realistic analysis, for the first time.

1,340,000 CLAIMS STILL PENDING; THOUSANDS MAY FAIL TO REACH ADJUDICATION

Over two-thirds of the claims filed to date by Nazi victims have yet to reach adjudication at German indemnification offices, the study mission found. Some 1,340,000 claims were pending by the close of 1957, and the number swelled considerably by the deadline at the end of last month. Claims numbering scores of thousands may fail to reach adjudication by the statutory deadline for the program’s completion, unless the pace of current operations is topped up by indemnification offices.

The processing of claims is a long-drawn out affair, running to two years on the average, and up to eight years in extreme cases, the study mission found. Time is running out, especially for thousands of claimants beyond the age of 70, many of whom are not expected to live long enough to see their claims reach final settlement.

OBSTACLES HAMPERING PROGRESS OF INDEMNIFICATION OUTLINED

Obstacles that were found to check the progress of indemnification, include: formalistic and narrow-minded approaches to indemnification problems taken by some indemnification offices; shortages of funds in the indemnification budgets of a number of German states; inadequate staffs, lack of qualified personnel and unsatisfactory conditions of employment at many indemnification offices; and the inadequate coordination on indemnification problems and policies among the German states, including a lack of uniformity in the treatment of many categories of identical claims.

In addition to the basic reforms necessary to bring the indemnification program up to snuff, the report appealed to state ministers of indemnifications to take the initiative to find the funds necessary to pay all claims and to give priority to expansion and improvement of their staffs as well as to simplify claims procedures. They were also asked to liberalize interpretations where the law allows it and to discourage prolonged litigation.

The members of the study mission, who undertook their task to help pinpoint shortcomings in the implementation of the law for the benefit of both federal and state administrations, were: Dr. Kurt Grossman, Dr. Nehemiah Robinson and Dr. Ernst Katzenstein, all experts on the indemnification problem. In the course of their study, they conferred with top-ranking officers on both the national and provincial levels and with important members of parliamentary committees.

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