Germany Sets Fund for Polish Victims, but Reduces Pensions to Persecutees

Germany has moved to establish a $300 million foundation with Poland to compensate slave laborers and others who suffered under the Nazi occupation of that country.

The foundation will be administered like the German fund that pays out reparations to Jewish persecutees in other countries.

In accepting the plan, the Polish government agreed to refrain from making further demands for compensation from Germany for sufferings inflicted by the Nazis during World War II.

But while setting up this new fund, Germany has also moved to cut by half or more the pensions that the former East German government paid for four decades to victims of the Nazis, most of them former Communist officials.

That decision, announced Oct. 17, has raised the hackles of German Jewry and drawn protest from the opposition Social Democratic Party.

The German Jewish community sharply protested the decision to cut the pensions, which were paid to Jews as well as others.

“I am shocked by the lack of sensitivity on the part of the government,” community Chairman Heinz Galinski said in Berlin. “This is a very complicated and delicate issue. They should have consulted the persons who are directly affected.”

The move was made in keeping with Bonn’s efforts to equalize financial arrangements and legal systems of the two former German states, which were reunited in October 1990. The payments, which were made to “fighters against fascism,” or “persecutees of fascism,” often exceeded those made by West Germany.

‘GOVERNMENT HAS MADE A MISTAKE’

Among those who received hefty pensions from the former German Democratic Republic was ousted Communist Party boss Erich Honecker, who had been imprisoned by the Nazis.

The Social Democrats accused the German government of trying to depict all those who received the special pensions as collaborators of the former Communist dictatorship.

According to the government, some 10,000 individuals over 70 years received the special pensions, with the so-called “fighters” against fascism receiving the larger of two amounts. As of Jan. 1, 1992, the monthly payments of $825 and $1,025 will be sliced to $445.

Galinski proposed that each case be examined individually to determine if the pension was paid to individuals who were part of the Communist apparatus that persecuted East Germans.

He argued that Jewish recipients of the special pension were never otherwise compensated for their sufferings under the Nazis.

In West Germany, no special pensions were paid to Jews or other persecutees who passed the age of 70. However, victims of Nazism received reparations, which sometimes included reinstitution of their claims to the state-run pension fund.

Galinski urged the German government to “either adopt the system of paying reparations to those who lived in former East Germany and were denied compensations in the West, or accept the system of special pensions as had been practiced here for so many years.

“We believe the government has made a mistake. Let’s hope it will be ready to study the matter and correct its decision,” he said.

NEXT STORY