Text size

BERLIN - Some 13,000 Holocaust survivors from the former Soviet Union who hitherto had not received compensation from the German government will now be able to file claims to receive one-time payments of 2,500 euro, after an agreement was reached Thursday between German representatives and the Claims Conference, which negotiates compensation for survivors, and the German government.

The decision marks a reversal in position of the two sides, which for years maintained that survivors whose applications were denied, or had missed the filing deadline, were barred from lodging a second request.

Survivors hailed the agreement Thursday as a step toward correcting an injustice that happened when they came to Israel. A lawsuit survivors filed in 2002 resulted in a NIS 19 million payment to 1,365 Holocaust survivors last year, after a Tel Aviv District Court judge ruled that the conference, which negotiates compensation for survivors, had neglected to inform about the details of filing a claim.

Many Russian-speaking immigrants were denied their compensation requests due to regulations requiring applicants to be at least 80 years old, or at least 80 percent disabled. Claimants said they had been unaware of the regulations.

"My mother filed a request when she was 56 at the Haifa Absorption Ministry branch. No one told her that because of her age the request would be denied, and she wouldn't be able to ask for reparations in the future. It caused her tremendous heartache," Yelena Zinstein told Haaretz Thursday.

"Now my mother lives on a NIS 2,000 National Insurance allowance, so the compensation is no so small sum for her," she said. "She always felt she had been done an injustice."

Ella Lifshitz was six years old when the Nazis invaded her home town of Nikolayev, Ukraine. She fled by train with her mother, aunt and grandmother, and remembers how German aircraft bombed the tracks.

"Every time there were bombings, the train stopped. We got out and took cover underneath it. Once the planes flew away, we got back in the train and started moving again," she recalled.

Lifshitz and her family spent two years in a bomb shelter, and returned to Nikolayev after the war. In 1991, she immigrated to Israel. Her brother Jan received compensation for the simple reason is that he is 11 years older, she said.

Alex Tentzer is a veteran activist for immigrants' rights.

"Many people are still in such situations, and were not included in attorney Yoram Sheftel's claim," he said, referring to the 2002 lawsuit.

Sheftel's office responded, "This is indeed an important development, which may lead to the dismissal of the Claims Conference petition to the Supreme Court" against last year's ruling.