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Committee is Formed to Negotiate with East Germany on Reparations

The Israeli government and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany have set up a joint committee to coordinate future negotiations with East Germany on the payment of war reparations.

The move follows East Germany’s announcement on Feb. 8 formally acknowledging its share of responsibility for Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.

The committee, whose activities got under way Monday in Jerusalem, is composed of officials of Israel’s Finance and Foreign Affairs ministries, and representatives of the claims conference, which is based in New York.

They will devise a platform to serve as the basis for negotiations with representatives of the German Democratic Republic.

The decision to establish the coordinating committee followed a series of meetings Dr. Israel Miller, president of the claims conference, had with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens.

“We’re at the stage of getting ready for negotiations,” said a spokesperson for the claims conference. “We’re not there yet. It’s all very new. We have created a coordinating mechanism, because that’s what we had before we entered negotiations with the German Federal Republic in 1952.”

That was the year of the Luxembourg Agreement, which became the foundation of West Germany’s massive indemnification program. It has amounted to billions of dollars in reparations in the form of goods and services to the State of Israel, Jewish organizations and the nearly destroyed Jewish communities of Europe.

It also has awarded millions of dollars to individual survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, which are distributed by the claims conference, an organization established in 1951 by 22 Jewish national and international organizations to represent the interests of the Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.

The extent of the GDR indemnity remains to be seen. The relative economic backwardness of East Germany, compared with its Western counterpart, has become evident in recent months.

But as observers have pointed out, West Germany, too, was not in great economic straits in 1952, following its defeat in World War II.

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