Germany has agreed to grant one-time compensation to Jews who fled the Nazi onslaught in the Soviet Union during World War II, even if they ended up in regions that Nazis did not conquer, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany announced on Sunday.
Payment will go to Jewish victims of Nazism from the former Soviet Union who live in Israel, the United States, Germany and other Western countries. This is the first time the German government has recognized the suffering of those who fled for their lives.
"Jews who fled ahead of the advancing Nazis in order not to be murdered were nevertheless victimized beyond imagination," Claims Conference chairman Julius Berman was quoted as saying. "This payment can never bring back what was lost, but it is an acknowledgment of what they endured during the war."
Hardship Fund payments of 2,556 euros will be made starting January 1 to Jews who fled between June 22, 1941, and January 27, 1944, from parts of the Soviet Union that were up to 100 kilometers from the most easterly advance of the German army, even if they were not later occupied by the Nazis.
Among those eligible will be Jews who fled Moscow and Stalingrad (today Volgograd), as well as those who fled Leningrad (today St. Petersburg) between June 22, 1941, and September of that year, when German forces began their 900-day siege of the city.
More than 1 million Jews were murdered during the Nazi occupation of the former Soviet Union and entire Jewish communities were eradicated. Thousands of Jews who realized that coming under Nazi occupation was a virtual death sentence fled eastward to try to escape.
Roman Kent, the Claims Conference treasurer and a member of the team that negotiated the agreement, expressed satisfaction that Jews who fled were being recognized by Germany as victims of the Holocaust.