Nazi Victims Interned in Tunisia Entitled to German Compensation

Former inmates of Nazi prison camps in Tunisia may now apply for compensation from Germany. Tuesday’s announcement followed negotiations between the Claims Conference and Germany’s Finance Ministry. Germany committed some $280 million to this and several related causes.

“It is the first time that the suffering of women and children in Tunisia has been recognized,” Gideon Taylor, the Claims Conference’s executive vice president, told JTA in a phone interview after meeting with Karl Diller, Germany’s deputy finance minister. “This is one reason why we pursued the issue of North African camps so intensively.”

Those eligible may number only a few hundred, Taylor said, “but it’s still significant.”

He added that the talks were generally positive, but “there were some issues we didn’t reach agreement on.” He didn’t elaborate.

Former internees in Gabes, Marcia-Plage and Tniet-Agarev in Tunisia will be eligible for payments of about $320 per month under the Article 2 Fund if they meet other German-mandated eligibility requirements. Information on eligibility criteria is available at www.claimscon.org.

Additional compensation and social service funds will cover certain Western Europeans who have not received compensation, as well as increased funding for survivors’ home care, Taylor said.

The Claims Conference delegation was chaired by President Israel Singer and included Taylor and Noach Flug, chairman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel.

The conference meets annually with the German Finance Ministry. Diller represented the past government under Gerhard Schroeder as well as the current government of Angela Merkel.

Beginning in July 1942, the French Vichy government and its dependent protectorate authorities in Tunisia interned Jews in camps there, prompted by the Nazis. Following German occupation of Tunisia in November 1942, the Nazis ran the camps.

Jews at the camps were fenced in and tightly guarded. Conditions and medical care were poor and food was scarce.

The sum includes $26 million for social services for Jewish victims of the Nazis, which the German government has agreed to provide through the end of 2007. This is up from about $7 million in 2004 and $11 million in 2005.

In addition, Article 2 payments also will be applied to 4,000 new claimants from certain Western European countries whose eligibility was established after negotiations in 2003. This will result in an 8 percent increase in the number of people receiving Article 2 payments, which currently stands at 49,000.

However, “there are still groups of survivors from Western Europe on whose behalf we will continue to negotiate,” Taylor said.

Article 2 has paid more than $1.8 billion to more than 68,000 Holocaust survivors since it began in 1992, following Claims Conference negotiations with the newly unified Germany. The Claims Conference allocates the funds to 43 agencies assisting needy Jewish survivors in 17 countries.

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