German court backs pensions for veterans of Latvian SS unit

FRANKFURT, Dec. 22 (JTA) — A German court has ruled that former non-German members of an elite Nazi unit that participated in the massacre of Eastern European Jews are entitled to pensions. The ruling by a federal court in Kassel overturns a lower court’s denial of a pension to a former Latvian member of the Waffen-SS and to the widow of another veteran. Disability pensions have been paid to wounded veterans since 1950. Earlier this year, after pressure from the American Jewish Committee and other Jewish groups, the Bundestag, the German parliament, passed a law allowing the government to strip convicted war criminals of their pensions. But Wilfried Nachtwei, a Green Party lawmaker who has organized private compensation payments for Baltic Jews, said that not all members of the Waffen-SS can be denied pensions under the new law. “We can not say that all members of the unit were involved in crimes against humanity,” said Nachtwei. However, he cautioned there must be a careful investigation of former Latvian members of the Waffen-SS because of the unit’s documented crimes. The director of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff, told the German news agency DPA that he opposed the court ruling. Zuroff said that he has sent a letter to the German labor minister demanding that all former members of the SS, as well as soldiers in units that fought against civilians, be excluded from special disability pensions.

NEXT STORY