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Ghetto survivors eligible for payment

BERLIN (JTA) — For the first time, some survivors of Nazi-era ghettos are eligible for a one-time payment from the so-called Ghetto Fund in addition to the pensions they receive from the German government.

Following negotiations with Germany, the Claims Conference announced that those who meet certain criteria will receive a one-time payment of 2,000 euro, or about $2,600. Germany also has canceled the Dec. 31 deadline for submitting applications for Ghetto Fund payments. In addition, the government is examining 56,000 rejected claims for so-called ghetto pensions, German Social Security payments for work in ghettos.

The government decided to approve both Social Security payments and the one-time reparations payment for ghetto survivors who worked as "non-forced" laborers, in effect broadening the eligibility for payments from the ghetto fund.

Julius Berman, chairman of the Claims Conference, said in a news release that the organization wanted to ensure that every eligible survivor who was in a ghetto could apply for both payments.

"The decision represents recognition of the suffering and hardship experienced by Jews working in Nazi-era ghettos under unimaginable conditions,” he said.

Since 2002, survivors who worked in Nazi ghettos during the war have been eligible for the ghetto pension even if they received payment for their work in the ghetto. The Claims Conference, which is not involved in the implementation of the payments, nevertheless does provides information on its website about eligibility and the application process.

In related news, a judge in the city of Essen who has spent years interviewing rejected claimants in Israel in an effort to help in their appeal has formally claimed he is being bullied as part of efforts to block payment of ghetto pensions.

According to the Bild online newspaper, Social Court Judge Jan-Robert von Renesse, who reportedly has fought for ghetto pensions for thousands of survivors, says the forms that claimants must fill out are too complicated for many of them; he said thousands of applicants were rejected for "lack of cooperation" for failing to send back the
forms.

Renesse also alleged that the court administration regularly destroys documents that could help applicants. Bild confirmed that the president of the Social Court of North-Rhine Westphalia is being investigated for "suppression of documents."

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