MOSCOW (Feb. 23)
Ukraine has stopped making payments from a German fund to Ukrainians who suffered under Nazism.
The fund, whose beneficiaries include Jews, has apparently been misused.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said last week that he would take charge of an ongoing investigation into the matter.
Kuchma’s intervention “gives us hope that the situation will be resolved soon,” Klara Vinokur, head of a Kiev organization of Holocaust survivors, said in a telephone interview.
The Fund for Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation was created more than three years ago to distribute some $235 million from Germany to Ukrainian citizens who had suffered under the German occupation during World War II.
Beneficiaries of the fund include Jewish survivors of ghettos and concentration camps, as well as the so-called “eastern workers,” the thousands of Slavs who were forced to work in Germany during the war on the Soviet front.
Individual one-time payments range from $350 to former “eastern workers” to $590 for Jewish survivors.
The payments were made through Kiev’s Gradobank.
The investigation was launched after the fund reported in December to the government that the bank had stopped making payments.
The general prosecutor’s office has already reported that the investigation into activities of both the bank and the fund revealed some violations and misuse of funds.
More than $47 million was reported to have disappeared from the fund’s accounts in Gradobank.
The accounts have been frozen until the investigation is completed.
The issue of compensating former eastern workers is sensitive in Ukraine, because they are a few hundred thousand of the nation’s citizens.
Jewish survivors of the Holocaust make up about 1 percent of the fund’s beneficiaries. Jewish officials say they do not think that the investigation would harm the interests of those survivors who had not yet received their one- time payments.
About 3,800 of the 4,140 Jewish Holocaust survivors living in Ukraine already have received such payments.
Vinokur said the fund’s policy toward Jewish survivors has improved recently. Since December, Jews who were in hiding and who had been previously denied any compensation from the fund were recognized as eligible for the one-time payment.
Similar funds exist in Russia and Belarus. Before the funds were established in 1993, Holocaust survivors in the former Soviet Union were receiving no compensation from Germany.