German court: Nazi forced laborers entitled to pensions

BERLIN (JTA) — A German court has ruled that two men forced to work for the Nazis during World War II are entitled to a pension.

Wednesday’s ruling could have an impact on tens of thousands of survivors, who may now finally receive German social security payments, Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, told JTA in a telephone interview from New York.

"It will have a tremendous impact," he said.

Following the ruling, Georg Heuberger, Claims Conference representative in Germany, said the next task would be to reach out to those aging survivors who might "still get the pension that was withheld from them for so long."

The precedent-setting ruling from the Federal Social Affairs Court in Kassel will impact particularly survivors who applied for German social security pensions and were rejected, unable to show they had worked for remuneration.

Though most survivors have qualified for compensation under other categories, they also may apply for pension benefits, Taylor said. The two issues — compensation and pensions — are separate, he stressed.

Taylor confirmed that more than 90 percent of some 70,000 ghetto laborers who applied in the past for pensions were rejected. Those deemed eligible now may receive up to $214 per month, plus back payments based on when they first applied. The Claims Conference will post application details on its Web site as soon as they become available, Taylor said.

In Wednesday’s case, the two survivors of ghettos in Poland argued that they qualified for German pensions because they had actually been compensated for their work in the form of food and other amenities. According to Taylor, the court accepted the argument, and also decided that the survivors did not need to receive remuneration directly in order to qualify.

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