BERLIN (JTA) — Germany approved retroactive pension payments, going back to 1997, to Holocaust survivors who worked in Nazi ghettos.
The Federal Cabinet announced the change to the ghetto pension law on Monday. The amended law, starting this summer, will affect about 40,000 Holocaust survivors, including about 13,000 in Israel.
The average payment per person would be about $20,500, Der Spiegel magazine reported earlier this year.
In a statement, the German government said the decision came out of “a sense of historical responsibility for Holocaust survivors, who experienced untold suffering under National Socialism.”
The payments affect former ghetto workers who have filed an application for a pension. Previously they could only claim a maximum of four years in back payments from the time of filing. Some applicants were rejected, only to be accepted after a lengthy review process, the government noted.
Applicants now will receive retroactive payments back to 1997.
“And quickly, with no red tape,” Federal Minister of Social Affairs Andrea Nahles vowed. “It is important that we have found a mutually acceptable resolution after so many years.”
Eligible survivors can have their pension payment adjusted according to two formulas: the newly calculated pension, including a back payment and a slightly lower monthly rent, or a slightly increased monthly pension but no back payment.
German pension funds will be required to write to all known eligible survivors about the change in the law, whenever possible in their native language.
The announcement follows Germany’s annual Cabinet talks with their Israeli counterparts, an exchange initiated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2008.