NEW YORK (JTA) — Germany has agreed to expand a pool of victims of the Nazis eligible for one-time payments of about $2,660 to those who never left Eastern Europe, the Claims Conference announced.
Until now, only those who fled the Nazis as they moved east through Germany but later settled in the West were eligible for these payments from a fund called the Hardship Fund. The expansion of the pool will cover approximately 7,000 additional people who fled the Nazis but then settled behind the Iron Curtain, the Claims Conference estimated.
In all, the payments are expected to amount to about $19 million. Only those who are now residing in one of the 10 European Union countries that used to be part of the Soviet bloc will be eligible.
The announcement came during the annual board meetings of the Claims Conference, which negotiated with Germany for the change.
“This is a first step towards attaining recognition for those Nazi victims whose experiences have not been acknowledged," said Claims Conference Chairman Julius Berman. "These are victims of Nazism and communism, who at the end of their lives are finally obtaining symbolic recognition of their persecution."
Since its establishment in 1980, the Hardship Fund has paid out more than $800 million. It originally did not include communist countries for fear that Communist Party officials would seize the payments. The Hardship Fund is one of many funds administered for Germany by the Claims Conferece.
Last year, federal investigators and Claims Conference officials discovered that more than a dozen people, including Claims Conference employees, had fraudulently obtained about $18 million from the Hardship Fund through false claims. In all, the fraud amounted to more than $40 million.
Applications for payments may be submitted beginning Sept. 1 and through June 30, 2013. It covers those living in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.