WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (JTA) Negotiators trying to hammer out a plan to distribute payments to Nazi-era slave and forced laborers overcame a key sticking point on Tuesday, but talks will continue later this month.
At issue during the two days of talks in Washington is a $5.2 million compensation fund being set up by the Germany government and industry.
German negotiators agreed to drop a proposed law that would have deducted payments to survivors who had already received compensation from other agreements related to the Holocaust.
Jewish groups and lawyers for survivors were outraged over the German draft law, saying it went against the framework for an agreement reached late last year.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat represented the United States in the talks with German officials and lawmakers, Jewish officials and victims’ attorneys. He told reporters that the sides made “substantial progress” on the issue of the proposed German legislation.
Eizenstat also said that the first proposal about how the funds should be distributed was presented by Belarus, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. The proposal suggests that nearly 90 percent of the fund go directly to former slave and forced laborers while slightly more than 1 percent would go to those who suffered other wrongs, such as medical experiments.
The remainder of the funds would go to settle property and insurance claims, to education programs and administration of the fund.
The sides are scheduled to meet again on Feb. 17 in Berlin.
The German offer would affect some 250,000 concentration camp survivors 135,000 of them Jewish who were enslaved by German companies during the war. It would also compensate between 475,000 and 1.2 million non-Jewish forced laborers from Central and Eastern Europe who were deported and sent to work in Germany.
Alissa Kaplan, spokeswoman for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, welcomed the decision, but expressed frustration that the slow pace of the talks is holding up the eventual distribution of funds to elderly survivors.
“We don’t have time,” she said. “There’s no time. We need to have an agreement here on the details.”