Germany Pledges $77 Million for Needy Holocaust Survivors

Sum represents an 85% increase of last year's budget set aside for impoverished survivors.

BERLIN - Germany will pay $77 million in subsidies this year to aid needy Holocaust survivors worldwide. The decision is the end result of annual negotiations held in Berlin between the German government and the Claims Conference.

According to the terms of the deal, half of the money will be sent to survivors living in Israel who are in need of home nursing, medicine and food.

The sum of $77 million is an 85 percent increase over last year's budget the German government set aside for impoverished survivors.

The bulk of the funds are earmarked for those who escaped Nazi persecution in the former Soviet Union. These individuals were not officially recognized as Holocaust survivors by the German government since they were not directly under German rule during World War II.

Since the mid-1990s, the Claims Conference has supported their efforts to wrest reparations from Berlin. According to organization chairman Reuven Merhav, the Claims Conference coffers are expected to empty within a few years, necessitating increased financial aid from Germany.

The Claims Conference has long sought to reach agreements with Germany on the establishment of a foundation devoted to the matter of helping needy Holocaust survivors, thus negating the need for annual negotiations.

"It was only in recent years that the Germans began to recognize their responsibility and moral debt toward emigrants from the former Soviet Union who were persecuted by the Nazis," Merhav told Haaretz yesterday. "This understanding lies beyond the bounds of any political argument in Germany, and it is being championed by Chancellor Angela Merkel out of a sense that this is the last chapter in negotiations in which we are engaging with Germany over compensation to the victims of the Nazis and to Holocaust survivors."

Outside yesterday's agreement, Germany allocates 400 million euros annually to Holocaust survivors worldwide through various aid programs.