German compensation omits survivors in Czech Republic

PRAGUE, March 16 (JTA) — The Czech Jewish community’s enthusiasm about Germany’s recent decision to give direct compensation to the victims of Nazism in Central and Eastern Europe has turned to bitter disappointment. Compensation from the approximately $47 million German fund will be given to survivors only in countries that do not have bilateral agreements with Germany, according to Tomas Kraus, general director of the Federation of Jewish Communities. This would exclude Holocaust survivors in the Czech Republic, which signed a joint reconciliation accord with Germany in January. “Victims here won’t receive direct compensation from the German government,” Kraus said last Friday. “And many Holocaust survivors in this country will die without having been compensated for their wartime suffering.” Heiner Horsten, an official at the German Embassy in Prague, confirmed that the $47 million fund “is not meant for victims of Nazism in the Czech Republic.” About 9,000 Czech citizens, including 2,000 Jews, could have received payments from the fund. The German government is expected to decide soon how the new fund will be administered and to begin compensating individuals next year. The local Jewish community has been pushing for direct compensation from Germany for years. Czech Holocaust survivors opposed the Czech-German reconciliation accord on the grounds that it did not include provisions to compensate individual Holocaust victims. Instead, the accord established an approximately $96.5 million “Fund for the Future” to finance civic initiatives that would benefit victims of Nazi oppression. The reconciliation accord, which was negotiated for almost two years, was intended to ease long-standing tensions rooted in Germany’s wartime occupation of Czech lands and the subsequent deportation of Sudeten Germans from postwar Czechoslovakia. The Czech Republic remains the only Central European country whose citizens have not received any direct compensation from Germany for wartime sufferings.

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