Let 'Em Pay

Nobody can calculate accurately how much the Germans paid for their crimes against the Jews: By any account, they paid neither too much nor enough.

Most of the money was paid before the euro was introduced. If 60 million Germans for 60 years paid some 12 billion Deutsche mark - it works out that each one paid on average DM 33 per year, or less than one mark a week, between 25 and 50 cents.

In the interim, they became one of the wealthiest countries in the world. They owe their present standing among other things to their wise decision to compensate the Holocaust's survivors. Had they not done so in the early 1950s, they would not have been welcomed so quickly into the family of nations and would also not be so rich today.

None of this changes the fact that the Germans treated Holocaust survivors more fairly than did the Israel government, especially in recent years. Unfortunately, Israel's attitude toward people in distress is not a worthy example to other countries: not after the Olmert government proposed raising the allowances survivors receive by NIS 83 a month.

However, there is no reason to be impressed by the German government's announcement that it is prepared to enter into negotiations with Israel over additional payment. So long as there is one Jew left on earth who still needs money to end his life in dignity, the Germans should pay, because they alone are to blame. There are some people in Germany who are yelling they've paid enough. They are only demeaning themselves.

At issue is not reopening closed agreements, but human needs that did not arise previously, and people who lived most of their lives behind the Iron Curtain and received no reparations. The Germans should be satisfied if they don't have to give the survivors from the former Soviet Union everything they hadn't paid them during the communist era.

The Germans' willingness to pay more to these survivors too must take into account an important lesson of past agreements: Too many survivors did not get what they deserved, because Israel plucked some of their money for itself. It cannot be allowed to do so again. It was not Israel that was hurt in the Holocaust, but rather several thousand people who now live there. Each has a name, a story, a wound. The money reaches each by direct payment from Germany. It's enough each have a bank account; there is no need for the Bank of Israel.