PARIS, Nov 14 (JTA) — The orphans of Jews deported from France to Nazi death camps will receive compensation from the French government, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has announced.
Addressing Jewish leaders over the weekend, Jospin said the orphans would receive either a lump sum or a monthly pension of about $500 under a program to be put in place in the coming weeks.
“My belief is that the unique situation of the children orphaned by the deportations, who suffered from the loss of one and often two parents and lived under the threat of arrest and deportation, calls for a response worthy of the republic 50 years on,” Jospin said Saturday at the annual dinner of CRIF, the umbrella group of secular French Jewish organizations.
“We feel it is fair that France assume its responsibilities toward those who were mistreated and ruined,” said Jospin, the guest of honor at the CRIF dinner, which was attended by several Cabinet ministers, religious leaders and dozens of foreign ambassadors.
The measure represented a triumph for famed Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld, who has been campaigning for decades on behalf of Holocaust orphans, particularly the children of foreign Jews deported from France, who have never received any kind of restitution.
Most of the 76,000 Jews deported from France during World War II were immigrants from Eastern Europe.
“The French state of 1940 helped the Nazis deprive thousands of Jewish children of their parents, stole their childhood and plunged their entire existence into mourning,” Klarsfeld said.
“The French state of 1999 appeases at last the orphans in their old age through this moral and material compensation, which will help many of them escape poverty,” he said.
Klarsfeld added that some 3,000 to 5,000 people would be eligible for the compensation.
CRIF President Henri Hajdenberg praised the initiative but urged Jospin to act quickly because of the advanced age of most of the survivors.
“This measure must be implemented very rapidly so that those concerned can still benefit from it,” he said.
At the CRIF dinner, Jospin spoke out on behalf of 13 Iranian Jews who were detained by Tehran earlier this year on charges of spying for Israel.
“It is clear for the French authorities that there can be no return by Iran to the international community if that country executes these 13 people,” Jospin said.
“That is why I express the wish that the changes under way in Iran lead to the acquittal of the 13 Iranian Jews as a first symbolic act.”
On Monday, Iran responded to Jospin’s remarks by accusing France of meddling in its internal affairs.
Jospin and President Jacques Chirac discussed the fate of the 13 last month with visiting Iranian President Mohammed Khatami.
At the time, Khatami promised that the detainees would be given a fair trial.
Jewish groups staged protests during Khatami’s Oct. 27-28 visit to demand the release of the 13.
Human rights groups also demonstrated to protest Iran’s human rights abuses.
France has for years maintained diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran despite Tehran’s support for terrorism and the murder of Iranian opposition leaders on French soil.