Slave laborers to get more funds

BERLIN, June 24 (JTA ) — A breakthrough agreement will bring an additional $174 million to Jews who worked as slave laborers during the Holocaust. After a year of negotiations that ended Thursday in Berlin, the funds — just over half the interest earned on the original compensation settlement with German government and industry — will be distributed by the Claims Conference to some 140,000 Jewish survivors by the end of August. Remembrance, Responsibility, and the Future, a German foundation, will turn over the rest of the money, about $169 million, to seven other organizations, including the International Organization for Migration, and groups representing non-Jewish slave and forced laborers in Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. “There was a lot of money and all the organizations wanted a large share of the funds, so there was a lot of pressure on the foundation,” Gideon Taylor, the Claims Conference’s executive vice president, told JTA by telephone. “We now have enough reserve money to make the second payment,” Taylor said. “This final agreement is tremendously important.” Once administrative requirements are complete, the German foundation will release the money to the Claims Conference, making possible a payment of about $3,000 each to living former slave laborers. A first installment of some $6,000 was made in June 2001. The interest was earned on the original fund because the money gathered from German companies and the government was held a year longer than anticipated before the government approved its release, Taylor explained. There was no doubt that the interest would go to survivors, but “everyone wanted a piece of it,” he said. Heirs of slave laborers who were still alive on Feb. 16, 1999, and had applied for compensation also will be eligible to receive payments starting at the end of 2004. The heirs have received a letter with details, Taylor said. In addition, in July, the Claims Conference will make payments to 710 Holocaust survivors who endured Nazi medical experiments. These payments, which will total approximately $3.6 million, are in addition to payments made to 1,778 experiment survivors in January.

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