BONN (Jun. 19)
A court’s ruling that a Jew who worked in the Lodz Ghetto qualifies for German state pensions could serve as a precedent for hundreds of similar cases pending in German courts.
The ruling, by the Federal Court for Social Matters in Kassel, came in the case of a 75-year-old woman who lived in the ghetto from 1940 through 1944, when the area was liberated by Soviet troops.
The woman, who moved to the United States after the war, worked in Lodz as a tailor.
Under the ruling, the plaintiff will receive a one-time payment of several thousand dollars. She will also begin receiving a monthly payment equivalent to the minimum state pension for retired employees in Germany.
The pivotal legal question raised at the trial was whether the work performed in the ghetto should be regarded as slave labor. If so, the plaintiff would not qualify for a pension, since the state-run fund is only handling payments for employees who took jobs of their own free will.
The court said the conditions under which the woman was employed implied an element of coercion.
Nevertheless, the judges said the female tailor’s relationship with her employer qualified as a “verbal working contract” under which the woman was paid for the specific work she performed.