The German government and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany recently signed a historic agreement that requires Germany to pay reparations to those Holocaust survivors who were, until now, unable to receive those funds.
Thousands of victims of Nazism who lived after the war in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe never received indemnification because they were unable to file applications by the 1965 deadline stipulated in the 1952 reparations agreement, said Rabbi Israel Miller, president of the Claims Conference.
Some 90,000 of those Eastern Europeans who made it to the West after that deadline received small one-time payments, amounting to about 5 marks for each day they were confined.
“Now that their governments are free, they are free to request what others have received in terms of compensation,” Miller explained.
The new accord, signed the last week of October, provides for an additional one-time payment, as well as continuing hardship payments to Jews imprisoned by the Nazis in concentration camps or ghettos or who lived in hiding, Miller said.
The payments will be made to those held more than six months in concentration camps, in ghettos for at least 18 months and those who lived in hiding for at least 18 months.
“This historic agreement with the German government will make it possible for some of the most severely persecuted victims of Nazism – almost all of them elderly and needy – to live out their days in dignity and relative financial security,” he said.
The new accord will also place at the disposal of the Claims Conference 30 million marks (approximately $19 million) for grants to institutions and organizations that provide social care to elderly Jewish Nazi victims.
Miller said he was “satisfied” with the terms of the accord.
“We applaud the Claims Conference on their efforts,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
“We’re not talking about charity here,” he continued. The agreement “sends a reminder about the continuing responsibility of the German nation to the Jewish and other victims of the Nazi Holocaust,” which is especially poignant in light of the recent episodes of xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany.
The new agreement follows “extensive and difficult” negotiations that began 16 months ago in Bonn at a meeting between Miller and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
It also comes 40 years after West Germany first agreed to pay indemnification to Jewish victims of Nazism under a compact signed by West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Nahum Goldmann, then president of the Claims Conference.
There are currently 160,000 survivors receiving monthly pensions provided under the original 1952 reparations agreements. They reside mainly in the Americas, Israel and Western Europe.
To date, the Federal Republic of Germany has paid out roughly $50 billion in compensation to Holocaust survivors.
Prior to Germany’s reunification, “difficult and protracted negotiations were undertaken by the Claims Conference with the East German regime,” recalled Akiva Lewinsky, vice president of the Claims Conference and chairman of its negotiating team.
“Regrettably, those talks ended in failure because the Communist regime never accepted its historic moral responsibility to the survivors of Nazi persecution,” he said.
The new compensation accord was reached under Article 2 of the implementation agreement to the German Unification Treaty reuniting East and West Germany.
In that article, the German government agreed to negotiate with the Claims Conference for hardship payments to Nazi victims who had previously received no compensation or only minimal indemnification.
The Claims Conference will issue a call in early December for applications from Jewish Holocaust survivors for benefits under the new agreement.