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German Chancellor Assures Jewish Leaders on Compensation and Israel

German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard today assured a B’nai B’rith delegation that, as long as he remained Chancellor, a “special” German position toward Jews and Israel would continue. “He said also he would reveal his response to points raised by the delegation in a public statement at a subsequent date, However, the delegation members termed his comments to them privately as “revealing and reassuring.”

Members of the delegation, which called on the Chancellor at Blair House, where White House guests are lodged, included Dr. William Wexler, B’nai B’rith president; Rabbi Jay Kaufman, executive vice-president; and Maurice Weinstein, chairman of the B’nai B’rith International Council, The group spent more than one hour with Mr. Erhard.

Dr. Wexler reminded Mr. Erhard that, on May 12, 1965, he wrote to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol of Israel that “the attitude of the German Government in the past has proved that we are aware of the special German position towards the Jewish people all over the world, including Israel.” He then said: “We would like to express to you our sense of dismay and grave concern over what seems to be happening in Germany today in its relations with the Jewish people throughout the world and in Israel.”

The B’nai B’rith president said also: “Your Final Indemnification Law promised immediate payment to many claimants who had been waiting for over 20 years. Yet, only 10 days ago, the enactment of your budgetary law imposed restrictions on those payments. Your Government’s failure to recognize the compelling nature of indemnification payments has rocked the confidence of the entire Jewish world. It has created new uncertainty about German intentions.”

B’NAI B’RITH PRESIDENT STRESSES FEAR OF JEWISH VICTIMS OF NAZISM

Dr. Wexler said Nazi victims had conveyed their “real fear that the recent action by your Government will set a pattern and possible precedent to divest them of rights to which they are entitled and for which they have waited so long.” The German Chancellor was told that he had created “the foundations for normality of the position between the German people and the Jewish people. It was pointed out to them that the Jewish people were led to hope that, on these foundations, a solid structure would now be erected.”

Dr. Wexler indicated to Chancellor Erhard that he is not only the president of B’nai B’rith but also vice-president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, of which Dr. Nahum Goldmann is president. He also identified himself as the co-chairman, with Dr. Goldman, of the World Conference of Jewish Organizations.

Rabbi Kaufman told reporters following the meeting that the delegation voiced “keen disappointment at the failure of Germany to conclude economic agreements promised at the time West Germany and Israel established diplomatic relations.” Another vital point discussed pertained to the recent German decision to defer compensation to certain victims of the Nazis in 1966. Mr. Erhard told the delegation that hardship cases, including elderly persons, would receive appropriate treatment.

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