BERLIN — Germany’s parliament unanimously approved an amendment to the Ghetto Pensions Law on Thursday that will increase payments to some 40,000 Holocaust survivors by backdating their benefits to 1997.
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The survivors in question worked in Nazi-administered ghettos during World War II, ostensibly “of their own volition,” in exchange for food or meager wages.
The payments paid out to the survivors, which are based on a law known by its German acronym ZRBG, had been available in a limited fashion since 1997, with eligibility somewhat expanded in 2002. However, a narrow interpretation of the criteria led the German authorities to reject 61,000 of the 70,000 claims made under the law.
In 2009, rulings by the German Federal Social Court allowed reconsideration of tens of thousands of ghetto pension claims that had been previously rejected. However, the National Pension Board announced that even if applicants were found to be entitled to a pension, the payments would be backdated only to January 1, 2005, or not longer than four years back from when they applied.
The new deal means some 40,000 Holocaust survivors who were approved for ghetto pensions will be able to receive benefits backdated to 1997. These survivors will be receiving letters to this effect from the German authorities.
The amendment was introduced by German Labor Minister Andrea Nahles, who negotiated the deal with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. She promised the payments would be made “swiftly and efficiently.”
“The average age of the people we’re talking about is 85,” the Claims Conference wrote to Nahles last November. “There is no need to stress the urgency of the required legislation.”