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Woman Born in Bergen-belsen Again Denied a Reparations Pension

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An Israeli woman born in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp has again been denied a pension as reparation for her suffering.

District Court judges in the town of Celle, site of the camp, ruled that Miriam Turgeman-Lewald, 44, could not be said to have lived in Germany since one cannot consider a concentration camp a “lasting residence.”

Thus, as a “stateless” person, she is not eligible for a permanent pension above the equivalent of $90 she received from the German authorities for every month she was in Bergen-Belsen.

Turgeman-Lewald is disabled and has been seriously ill.

The judgment followed what had been seen as positive developments in the 30-year-old case. Last week, a Bundestag member of the Social Democratic Party, Ernst Waltemathe, wrote a letter to his colleagues in the legislative body, drawing their attention to what he termed “this unique and unbelievable case.”

Waltemathe sent a second letter to Finance Minister Gerhard Stoltenberg, asking him to find a way to compensate Turgeman-Lewald, despite previous rulings by the courts.

West German experts are pointing to Turgeman-Lewald’s extraordinary survival, having been born in a concentration camp under supervision of a Jewish inmate in unsanitary conditions.

While pensions have been awarded to many survivors who became unfit to support themselves because of their physical and mental suffering under the Nazis, the German experts say that current reparations legislation does not cover Turgeman-Lewald’s case. Their explanations make Waltemathe furious.

“It’s a shame to discuss legal details and to deny reparations on absurd grounds in such an obvious case of persecution and suffering,” he said this week. “It’s our duty to find a prompt solution to this problem. No one can argue convincingly that Miriam is not eligible for a pension.”

Waltemathe’s activities plus the publication of the case in some German newspapers may bring about a resolution after all. Finance experts here are studying the possibility of using monies from a special $180 million fund for “hard cases” of Nazi persecutees to compensate Turgeman-Lewald.

But nothing has been decided yet, and no one was able to say how much would be made available to Turgeman-Lewald — or when.

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