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German parliament extends pensions for Jews who worked in Nazi ghettos

BERLIN (JTA) — The German Bundestag unanimously passed legislation approving back payments of so-called ghetto pensions for Jewish survivors.

The law, reflecting years of negotiations, was approved by the Federal Cabinet in April and sent to the Bundestag. It requires retroactive payments of a few hundred euros per month going as far back as July 1, 1997. Reportedly, about 50,000 people are eligible today for these pensions, about 13,000 of them in Israel.

Survivors forced to work in Nazi ghettos had to wait until 2002 for any kind of pension at all. Once these were granted, applicants could claim only a maximum of four years in back payments from the time of filing.

The aim of the new legislation was to find a more just compensation for both slave laborers and those who were paid at the time.

In a statement issued in April, Federal Minister of Social Affairs Andrea Nahles said Germany wanted to act quickly out of “a sense of historical responsibility for Holocaust survivors, who experienced untold suffering under National Socialism.”

Applicants will receive retroactive payments back to 1997: “And quickly, with no red tape,” Nahles said at the time.

German pension funds must now contact all known eligible survivors about the change in the law, if possible in their native language.

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