NEW YORK (Sep. 5)
Jewish leaders today praised the State Department for securing from a “reluctant” East Germany a pledge to discuss reparations of Jewish victims of Nazism. But they said they will carefully watch for results from East Germany which yesterday signed an agreement to establish diplomatic relations with the United States. East Germany, unlike West Germany, had steadfastly refused to acknowledge responsibility for the sufferings of the victims of Nazism.
Rabbi Israel Miller, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that “the Jewish community will carefully monitor” the discussions on reparations to victims of Nazism. He stated that the establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the GDR was “tempered by our government’s moral insistence that the claims of all Nazi victims–not only citizens of the United States or American business firms–will now be discussed on a private and governmental level with the East Germans”
Rabbi Miller noted that “although just compensation for Nazi victims was not made a condition precedent to the exchange of ambassadors, it is gratifying that the claims item was high on the agenda of American concerns.” He said that the East Germans “cannot expect anything resembling normal relations with the United States until they demonstrate their readiness to live up to their obligations to those who suffered from the brutality of the Nazis and to abide by the rules governing proper conduct between nations.”
LONG OVERDUE RECOGNITION
In Washington, the B’nai B’rith hailed the State Department for securing from a “reluctant” East Germany a pledge to discuss compensation of Jewish victims of Nazism. B’nai B’rith President David M. Blumberg said that East Germany, “as the most prosperous country in Eastern Europe, owes it to justice and civilization to make its own contribution to redress the personal and property damages suffered by chose who were robbed and sent to slave labor camp by her predecessors.”
In New York, the American Jewish Congress welcomed the announcement as “long overdue recognition by East Germany of its international, legal and moral obligations.” The AJ Congress is a member of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which will enter the discussions with an East German body.
Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the AJCongress, declared: “It is to the great credit of the United States that our country persisted in requiring East Germany to commit itself to negotiations on compensation….Considering the enormous personal as well as property losses suffered by the Jewish communities in East Germany, whose former inhabitants have been either destroyed or dispersed, it remains a legal and moral duty of the GDR to provide a just measure of compensation for those who are no longer resident there.”