PRAGUE (Oct. 7)
Czech Holocaust survivors are pressing on with their campaign to obtain German compensation for their wartime suffering.
“If Germany does not award individual compensation this year, most of us will probably not live to see it,” stated a letter recently presented by survivors to the German Embassy here.
On Monday, a group of aged survivors demonstrated outside the embassy to reiterate their demands, which come as part of a nearly yearlong campaign to have Germany go beyond a commitment it made in a German-Czech declaration that was signed in January.
The demonstration came on the heels of a similar protest Sept. 25, and three days after a state visit to the Czech Republic by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, who did not promise the hoped-for compensation.
Instead, Kinkel focused on a fund that was created as part of the German-Czech declaration, saying he expected the fund to begin operating in three months.
The declaration, 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.
Jewish leaders complained at the time of the pact’s signing that Germany did not comment on the Holocaust in the declaration, which stated that Germany “regrets the suffering and iniquities inflicted on the Czech people.”
The fund set forth in the declaration was designed to finance community projects to benefit Holocaust survivors, but does not call for individual compensation.
Germany will provide the fund with about $76 million, and the Czech government will contribute about $12.9 million.
“The fund means nothing, and we don’t want it,” said Emma Sternova, a 74-year- old survivor who was among the 30 participants at Monday’s demonstration, which was organized by the Jewish Association of Resistance Fighters and Soldiers.
Sternova, who lost her immediate and extended family during the war, and fellow survivor Pavla Kovacova, 84, want nothing short of individual compensation.
“We want to receive money so that we can give it to our children and grandchildren,” Kovacova said.
The demonstrators waved placards which read, “You’re Continuing the Holocaust,” and “You’re Waiting Until We Die.”
German officials are currently negotiating with the Conference on Material Claims Against Germany about compensation payments to Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe.
In August, the German government and officials of the Claims Conference announced the establishment of a joint commission, which is expected to make its proposals before the end of the year.
Germany has paid more than $54 billion in compensation to Holocaust survivors since World War II.
However, those living in Soviet bloc countries were unable to apply for compensation during the Cold War.
Czech Jews have speculated that Germany’s reluctance to compensate survivors in Eastern Europe stems from fears that such a move would pave the way for compensation requests from non-Jews who suffered under Nazism.
There are about 6,500 Holocaust survivors in the Czech Republic.