WASHINGTON (Sep. 4)
Claims by Jewish victims of Nazi persecution against the German Democratic Republic, will be discussed between the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and an East German “private organization” known as the Committee of Anti-Fascist Resistance Fighters, State Department officials disclosed here today.
The Claims Conference, the officials said, will take the initiative in communication with the Committee and the two groups will then negotiate at a place they will determine. The negotiations on time and place are expected to begin shortly.
The disclosure followed immediately after the U.S. and Communist East Germany signed an agreement at the State Department establishing diplomatic relations between them and the stationing of ambassadors in Washington and East Berlin. However, the “special legal status of the Berlin area” is not affected by the agreement, the officials said. The entire Berlin area is under four power occupation by the U.S., Britain. France and the Soviet Union since the end of World War II.
WILL NEGOTIATE FOR LUMP SUM SETTLEMENT
According to the U.S. officials, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany will seek to negotiate a lump sum settlement of claims for Jewish victims or their heirs all over the world, including those residing in the U.S. and Israel. The East German government, they said, refused to deal with the Conference since it is a non-governmental body. But the GDR agreed that the “private” East German organization would discuss the claims.
The Claims Conference, whose offices are in New York City, negotiated with the West German government which has paid DM 40 billion (about $15 billion under the present exchange rate) as reparations for Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust. In addition, West Germany paid Israel in a separate bilateral governmental agreement reached in 1952, a sum of $712 million in goods and services over a 12-year period.
State Department officials said today, however, that the question of payment by the GDR to Israel had not arisen during the negotiations. Israel, they said, had no expectation of payment and the GDR certainly has no expectation of paying since Israel and the GDR have no diplomatic relations.
East Germany has consistently taken the position that it is not responsible for the persecution by the Nazis and has no connection with the Nazi regime. American officials pointed out, however, that the enormity of the crimes against Jews and others is so great that refusal by the East Germans to make reparations and ignore the claims would not be acceptable to the U.S. In negotiating their diplomatic agreement, the East Germans and the Americans spent most of their time discussing the reparations element, the U.S. officials said.
GDR INTENDS TO OFFER TOKEN PAYMENT
The East Germans, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was informed privately, intend to offer only a token payment to the Claims Conference to wipe the slate clean. Their offer of reparations will be more psychological than monetary, a high U.S. authority said. However, the Americans pointed out to newsmen that the Jackson Amendment to the U.S. Trade Reform Act pending in the Senate also may well apply to East Germany although that legislation was not discussed in the negotiations.
The GDR, U.S. officials said, will seek most favored nation trade status in a trade agreement with the U.S. The amendment, concerned with humane considerations, may be involved as in the case of USSR emigration policy. The U.S., there by seemed to indicate that if the GDR does not satisfy the Claims Conference, the American government would enter the situation.
U.S. legal responsibility, American officials said, is solely to U.S. citizens but the Nazi crimes were such that the U.S. would like to see justice done to all victims everywhere. No amounts for the claims are available. While Jewish claims will be handled initially by the Claims Conference, no arrangements have been made for claims by non-Jewish victims of Nazism. American citizens’ claims for specific property losses will be handled by the U.S. Federal Claims Committee in separate negotiations.