16,000 more Holocaust victims to get German pensions

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

16,000 Holocaust victims to get German pensions

New York (AP) - After a year of tough negotiations, Germany has agreed to pay pensions to about 16,000 additional Holocaust victims worldwide -- mostly survivors who were once starving children in Nazi ghettos, or were forced to live in hiding for fear of death.

The agreement announced Monday between the New York-based claims conference and the German government is "not about money -- it's about Germany's acknowledgment of these people's suffering," said Greg Schneider, the conference's executive vice president.

"They're finally getting recognition of the horrors they endured as children," he told the Associated Press.

Of the new beneficiaries, 5,000 live in the United States.

However, part of the agreement does not immediately cover survivors who were young Jewish children born in 1938 or later.

"We will continue to press for greater liberalizations to ensure that no Holocaust survivor is deprived of the recognition that each deserves," Stuart Eizenstat, special negotiator for the conference, said in a statement.

"That's why we continue to negotiate," said Schneider, who plans another trip to Berlin in January.

Germany will now pay reparation pensions to a total of 66,000 people who survived Nazi death camps and ghettos, or had to hide or live under false identity.

Schneider said the humanitarian deal was reached because of a broadening of the criteria for payment to Holocaust survivors.

Under the new rules, which go into effect January 1, any Jew who spent at least 12 months in a ghetto, in hiding or living under a false identity, is eligible for a monthly pension of 300 Euros (about $375) a month. For countries in the former Soviet Bloc, that amount is 260 Euros.

Until now, the minimum time requirement for living under such duress was 18 months.

Julius Berman, chairman of the claims conference, which provides services and reparations to victims of the Holocaust around the world, said in a statement that conference officials "have long emphasized to the German government that they cannot quantify the suffering of a Holocaust survivor who lived in the hell of a ghetto."

Living in hiding came with equally "unimaginable fear," he said -- the existence of "a Jew in Nazi Europe who survived for any period of time in hiding or by living under a false identity, when discovery would have been a death sentence."

The Germans established more than 1,000 ghettos for Jews while the Nazi leadership in Berlin deliberated the "final solution" -- a plan to murder all European Jews. Some ghettos existed for only a few days, others for months or years, before residents were either shot in mass graves or deported to death camps.

More than 400,000 lived in Poland's Warsaw ghetto, and hundreds of thousands of others were squeezed into similar enclaves in Eastern European cities like Vilnius, Lodz, Minsk and Odessa -- starved and often battling deadly illnesses while forced to work.

Germany also has agreed to offer pensions to those who are 75 or older and spent three months in ghettos like the one operated in Budapest, Hungary, from November 1944 to January 1945.
That provision is expected to affect about 4,500 survivors next year and 3,500 more once they turn 75.

For Budapest ghetto survivors, the payments will amount to 240 Euros (about $275) and 200 Euros for those in Eastern Europe -- to compensate for experiences that included sights like looted corpses of Jews strewn in an area that contained nearly 70,000 men, women and children.

Initially, the Jews of Budapest were protected by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg and other diplomats, who set up safe houses and issued passes.

Otto Herman, 81, and his sister Erzsebet Benedek, 78, were forced into the Budapest ghetto starting in October 1944, when he was 14 and she was 11. They were freed when the Russian army arrived in January 1945, but they lost most of their family during the war.

The siblings, who now live in neighboring apartments in Brooklyn's Williamsburg area, said the pensions would help them financially. But though "it will help a lot," Herman said, the money cannot compensate for the harrowing wartime experiences.

"It is not enough," Herman told the AP by telephone, speaking in a thick accent. "I will never forget ... sometimes I don't want to speak because of the memory."

To reach the new accord, Schneider traveled to Berlin each month. "It was not easy to negotiate this -- it took a year of hard-fought negotiations with the Germans, with many meetings and lots of documentation."

Calls to the press office of Germany's Ministry of Finance in Berlin, which provides the funding, went unanswered Monday. There was no immediate response to an email from the AP requesting comment on the agreement.

In all, the claims conference -- formally called the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany -- estimates that the changes will result in an additional $650 million in payments to survivors.

There is no deadline to apply for the pensions. Forms may be obtained through the conference website; help is also available by phone.

In another new development announced this week, anyone who worked in the German-run ghettos during World War II may now receive a one-time payment of 2,000 Euros (about $2,600) from the German Government.


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  • by Anonymous Location: GJCO on Dec 6, 2011 at 05:43 PM
    I just finished reading "How mankind committed the ultimate infamy at Auschwitz", by Laurence Rees and "The Last Days of Hitler" by HR Trevor-Roper. What the Jewish people, the Gypsies, and anyone who disagreed with or angered Hitler and his ilk, suffered in the camps was beyond any words I have to describe. I felt the same as I did when I saw the Twin Towers fall. Totally numb, no words, just numb.
  • by Karen Location: GJCO on Dec 6, 2011 at 05:30 PM
    I was 2 or 3 yrs. old when some of the first films of the Nazi concentration camps were made public. My father said I should watch and never forget what I saw because some day some idiots would try to say it never happened. We saw films the Nazis made showing bulldozers pushing bodies into mass graves, the ovens, some with the skeletal remains still in them. I guess one of the idiots just spoke up, Anonymous. I saw it --it HAPPENED idiot. It is the truth!
  • by Anonymous on Dec 5, 2011 at 08:14 PM
    Give me a break. Weather it happened or not, it happened long ago and not the current government problem or job. Often reminded of Whos going to pull the wagon when everybody wants to ride?
    • reply
      by MJ on Dec 5, 2011 at 08:31 PM in reply to
      Seriously? It did not happen that long ago. These people are still alive. It's much better than the supposed "reverse discrimination" scholarships and job opportunities that are given to people of color to try to make up for slavery. Those privileges are given to people whose ancestors suffered, not they themselves. These funds are going to people who suffered through the Holocaust and are still alive, not to their children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Dec 6, 2011 at 06:42 AM in reply to
      hey moron, you lost any credibility once you typed the words "weather it happened or not." Idiot! and it is whether. Not that it is raining. Idiots should not be allowed to comment on such things.
  • by Taylor Location: GJ on Dec 5, 2011 at 04:23 PM
    I am really glad that Germany agreed to do this, especially in a time of such economic uncertainty. While the Nazi government of Germany is responsible for many horrendous things, the post WWII governments of Germany have done a wonderful job of paying reprisals for the horror of Hitler. This is good to see.
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