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Don’t Expect East German Reparations, Official in Bonn Warns Jewish Leaders

October 30, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A West German official has chided Jews and others for displaying “unjustified enthusiasm” at hints that East Germany would pay war reparations.

He also implied that West Germany, which has paid indemnification toward Holocaust survivors, acted for all of Germany.

The high-level official, who spoke to reporters on condition he not be identified, was referring to vague promises of reparations made last year by former East German leader Erich Honecker.

The West German official essentially told Jews not to expect such help from the East German regime, which has never acknowledged responsibility for Nazi persecutions.

The official, who has been dealing with the reparations issue for many years, said that, technically, Jews have no additional claim against East Germany.

According to the official, East German talk about paying indemnification to Jewish persecutees was not a serious offer, motivated by ideological or moral considerations, but rather an attempt to seduce the American Jewish community into supporting more favorable U.S. trade relations with East Germany.

Nor is it known what course the new East German leader, Egon Krenz, will take. Krenz replaced the ailing Honecker less than two weeks ago, following the large-scale flight of East Germans to West Germany and large demonstrations for democracy in the streets of several cities.


Krenz, Honecker’s hand-picked successor, has never publicly addressed the reparations issue. Observers here believe it will be a long time before he does, given the acute internal problems he faces in his country.

Honecker’s statement about reparations was made during a visit to East Berlin made in October 1988 by Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress.

In New York, Elan Steinberg, WJC’s executive director, brushed aside the unnamed official’s remarks Sunday, saying “The commitment of the German Democratic Republic is a commitment that has to be fulfilled by the government and has no dependency on any particular individual.”

He said WJC and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against West Germany met with East German Foreign Minister Oskar Fischer in September, during the U.N. General Assembly, to discuss, among other topics, the reparations question.

Steinberg maintained that East Germany is obligated to pay one-third of the total German reparations, according to a 1952 Luxembourg agreement on indemnification of Holocaust survivors.

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