Germany agrees to increase payments to some survivors

FRANKFURT, June 23 (JTA) — Thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors could be eligible for additional compensation from Germany. Under a recently negotiated agreement, qualified survivors could receive about $290 a month. The accord, reached between the German government and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, eases the criteria for receiving such assistance. Those who previously received up to $20,230 in compensation from the German government can file a claim to obtain the additional payments. Monthly payments previously were restricted to survivors who had received less than $5,780 in German compensation. The money comes from a special hardship fund for Holocaust victims set up in the 1990 German unification treaty. The criteria for the monthly payments have been often criticized by both German and Jewish groups. To qualify to receive the $290 monthly payment, needy survivors must prove that they spent at least six months in a concentration camp or at least 18 months in a ghetto or in hiding in Germany or Eastern Europe. Children who were separated from their parents can file claims if they lived under a false identity for at least 18 months. Those who lived in a Western European country at the time of persecution are not eligible because Germany paid reparations to those countries after the war. Complicating the situation is the fact that survivors who live in Eastern Europe have never received German compensation and are not eligible for any hardship funds. This issue is at the center of a growing dispute between the German government and Jewish organizations. The Claims Conference estimates that at least 20,000 severely persecuted survivors live in Eastern Europe. Many of them are impoverished and cannot treat physical ailments that stem from mistreatment during World War II. The German government has refused to make individual payments to Jewish survivors in these countries, saying it cannot afford the expenditures after decades of paying compensation to Israel and survivors living in the West. Bonn government officials also are concerned that payments to Jewish survivors could prompt claims by millions of non-Jewish victims of Nazi oppression living in those countries. Meanwhile, representatives of the Claims Conference and the American Jewish Committee continue to discuss the issue of compensation for Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe with senior German government officials, but no solution is in sight. In May, the AJCommittee ran an advertisement in The New York Times to call attention to the problem.

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