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Slow Handling of Indemnification Criticized in Bonn Parliament

October 18, 1954
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Representatives of the opposition Social Democratic Party and deputies of two of the parties in the Bonn Government coalition assailed yesterday the procrastination and “pettiness” in the administrative handling of claims by individuals for indemnification for injuries and damages suffered under the Nazi regime. Fritz Schaeffer, Finance Minister, who was the principal target of the attacks, was absent from the Parliamentary chamber during the debate, as is his custom at such times.

The debate occurred after the introduction of a motion by the Social Democrats, later supported by a majority of the Bundestag including deputies of government parties, calling for an extension of the deadline for filing such claims for residents of Germany. The measure, which extends the deadline until October 1, 1955 for Jews and other victims of the Nazis, was passed in all three readings. The extent of the criticism of the government in this matter was to be seen in the fact that an opposition party motion was adopted.

During the debate, Socialist Dr. Adolf Arndt assailed the “shameful, humiliating procrastinations” mirrored in the fact that a year after the passage of the Federal Indemnification Act there was only one implementation regulation of that law in effect. Dr. Arndt accused the government of bad faith and insisted that this was leading to “pettyfogging, casuistry and bad faith” on indemnification on local levels. He insisted that the only explanation for this state of affairs was a “putrid climate of anti-Semitism.”

Similar criticisms of the government, but in more measured words, came from Prof. Franz Boehm, member of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s Christian Democratic Union and head of the German delegation which negotiated the reparations pact with Israel and Prof. Hans Reif, Berlin deputy of the liberal wing of the Free Democratic Party. Prof. Reif contrasted the speed with which former Nazi civil servants were offered pensions or reinstatement with the reluctance to indemnify victims of the Nazis.

Dr. H. Hartmann, Secretary of State in the Finance Ministry, speaking for the government, said he understood Parliament’s “grave concern” and the sharp criticisms levelled at the government. He pledged that the government would “do everything to bring about a speedier and more satisfactory solution in the future.”

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