Germany will increase its reparation payments to Holocaust survivors and also expand the circle of people who are eligible to receive them. The changes to the reparation treaty comes as a result of negotiations between the German government and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.
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On Thursday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Claims Conference chairman Julius Berman signed a renewed agreement that permanently establishes the agreements reached by the sides in recent years.
"We have worked for decades to achieve recognition of Holocaust survivors who have remained in the countries of the former Soviet Union," Berman said. "There are cases in which two sisters fled into the USSR together but one of them, who now lives in the United States, can receive reparations while the other, who has remained in Ukraine, cannot receive anything. Justice has to be done based on history and not on geography."
Schaeuble spoke in a similar vein: "Individuals persecuted by the Nazis in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union will receive reparations from Germany for the suffering they experienced. There are people there who to this day have not been entitled to this."
The aid will go to approximately 80,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union who are still living in eastern Europe and have never received compensation from Germany for their suffering during the Holocaust. Tens of thousands of these elderly people will receive a one-time sum of 2,556 euros each, for a total of about $200 million. Moreover, the stipends received by survivors in eastern and western Europe will be equalized, so that each will receive 300 euros a month.
Shlomo Gur, a veteran activist of the Claims Conference in Israel, told Haaretz: "This is a breakthrough. The most unfortunate Jews, refugees and victims of the Holocaust who are living in places like Ukraine, Russia and Belarus will at long last receive this grant, for the first time."
An agreement to increase allocations for home care for Holocaust survivors was reached between the Claims Conference and Germany more than one and a half years ago. Under the terms announced in April 2011 Germany increased payments in 2012 for home health care for survivors to 126.7 million euros (around $177 million), 15 percent more than in 2011. That amount is set to rise to 136.7 million euros in 2013 and to 140 million euros in 2014.
The money is distributed to agencies around the world to provide survivors with in-home nursing care and help with day-to-day activities.