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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Germany accepting Soviet WWII claims

The chairman of The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany has announced that an estimated 80,000 victims of Nazi Germany in the former Soviet Union are now eligible for compensation payments.

Julius Berman
In a letter to The Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Dr Danny Lamm, the Chairman of the Conference Julius Berman wrote:
“I am very pleased to tell you that the Claims Conference has secured a landmark agreement that will enable the first-ever compensation payments to an estimated 80,000 Nazi victims in the former Soviet Union.
Today in negotiations with the Claims Conference, the German government agreed to expand the Hardship Fund to the former Soviet bloc countries, a result that we have long negotiated for. Coming on the eve of our annual board meeting and accompanying events that will mark the 60th anniversary of the first-ever compensation negotiations in 1952, this monumental agreement resonates even more.
This is the first Holocaust-related payment that these victims will ever receive, a long-sought goal of the Claims Conference. This agreement also means that every Jewish victim of Nazism who has not yet received compensation from Germany has received or is now entitled to some form of payment.
The Hardship Fund primarily affects Jews who fled eastward into the USSR ahead of the advancing Nazi army and mobile killing squads known as Einsatzgruppen. For the first time, those who remain today in the countries of the former Soviet Union will be able to apply to this program. Applications will be available as of November 1, 2012. The Claims Conference Hardship Fund has paid more than 350,000 such eligible victims who live outside the former Soviet bloc, and the Holocaust Victim Compensation Fund, established in 2011, pays such victims who live in the 10 former Eastern bloc countries that now belong to the European Union. But the tens of thousands of destitute Holocaust victims in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and elsewhere – who may have fled side-by-side with Hardship Fund recipients – have until now not been recognized.
The Fund will be open for applications starting on November 1, 2012. Information will be available in Russian, English, Hebrew and German at www.claimscon.org.
Additional Achievements
I am also extremely pleased to tell you of an additional, very significant achievement that we attained today. Since the establishment of the Central and Eastern European Fund (CEEF) in 1998, the Claims Conference has been strongly advocating to the German government that its monthly payment should be the same as the Article 2 Fund. As of January 1, 2013, the CEEF monthly payments will increase to €300, the same as Article 2.
In addition, the special pensions currently being paid to survivors age 75 or older who were in a ghetto for 3 to 11 months can be paid to any eligible survivor who lived under these conditions, regardless of current age, as of November 1, 2012. The Claims Conference also succeeded in increasing the amount of these pensions to €300 per month, as of January 1, 2013.
The equalization of pension payments will affect approximately 20,000 Holocaust survivors, with the payment amounts increasing from 15 to 33 percent.
Equally important, we also negotiated to reduce the time from 12 to 6 months that victims had to have lived in hiding or under false identity in Nazi-occupied territories in order to be eligible for Claims Conference pensions. This will make up to 5,000 survivors eligible for monthly pensions starting January 1, 2013, affecting primarily survivors persecuted in Hungary, Italy, France, Greece, and Slovakia. This follows a change in the criteria negotiated in November 2011 that reduced the time in hiding or living under false identity from 18 to 12 months.
Finally, all one-time payments from the Claims Conference will be €2,556 as of November 1, 2012. Recipients of payments from the Holocaust Victim Compensation Fund (HVCF) currently receive €1,900; those who have already been paid will receive a supplemental payment while those not yet paid will now receive €2,556.
We reinforced today that the history books are not yet closed on our 60-year endeavor to recognize the suffering of all Jewish victims of Nazism, no matter where they live. Two sisters may have fled into the eastern USSR together, but the one who today lives in the U.S. can receive a payment while the one who stayed in Ukraine until now could not. A measure of justice should be granted based on history, not on present-day geography. It was imperative that we obtain this symbolic payment before it became too late.
The work of the negotiating committee has been tremendous and I am grateful to the efforts of the masterful negotiator Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat as well as the other delegation members that joined him: Rabbi Andrew Baker, Uri Chanoch, Ben Helfgott, Saul Kagan, Roman Kent, Amb. Reuven Merhav, Greg Schneider and Marian Turski. Of course, results of this magnitude are achieved through ongoing discussions and overtures and I particularly want to acknowledge Roman Kent in this regard. Finally, the staff work has been outstanding and our deep appreciation goes to Greg Schneider as well his team of Karen Heilig, Christiane Reeh and Konrad Matschke.
I am very pleased to begin our 60th anniversary board meeting and accompanying events with this dramatic news.”

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