Germany has agreed to provide restitution payments to an additional 80,000 Jews in what Claims Conference officials are describing as a historic breakthrough.
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The agreement, which was reached Monday in negotiations between German officials and Claims Conference representatives, is likely to result in additional payments of approximately $300 million. Most of the money will go to Nazi victims in the former Soviet Union who have never before qualified for pensions or payments from German restitution money.
“This is the last group of people who have never received any compensation,” Greg Schneider, the executive vice president of the Claims Conference, told JTA in a telephone interview from Washington, where the negotiations took place.
“For people who suffered during the time of the Shoah, recognition from Germany is vital. To be able to do that at this stage, 60 years after the first restitution agreement, for 80,000 people, is tremendous,” he said. “For a survivor now in their old age to finally get acknowledgment from Germany is critically important.”
Most of the money will come from the Hardship Fund, which grants one-time payouts of 2,556 euro - approximately $3,150 - to Jews who fled the Nazis as they swept eastward through Europe. Until now, those payments were not available to Jews in Ukraine, Russia and other non-European Union countries in Eastern Europe. Applications for the fund will be available starting Nov. 1.
In many of those countries, the lump sum could amount to four years of regular pension payments, according to Schneider.
In Monday’s negotiations, Germany also agreed to equalize the monthly pensions it sends to survivors around the world, correcting what until now had been a disparity that saw survivors living in western countries receiving more than those in eastern countries. All survivors will now receive the equivalent of approximately $370 per month.
Germany also agreed to relax the eligibility rules for those who receive restitution payments for being forced into hiding during the Nazi era. Until now, only those who went into hiding for at least 12 months were eligible; now the eligibility threshold will be six months.