Almost 6,500 Holocaust survivors in Israel and the Diaspora, many of them with very small incomes, will receive a monthly pension for the first time from the government of Germany. This was announced Wednesday by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) that has been negotiating with the Germans.
This will have a significant impact on Jews who survived the Leningrad Siege and those who hid from the Nazis in France or those who survived persecution in Romania. The organization said that payments would be made to Jewish victims of the Nazis who lived for at least three months in the Siege of Leningrad or lived for at least three months between April 1, 1941 and August 31, 1944 under occupation in Romania.
The third group who can apply for the stipend were those who lived at least three months in hiding in France, including those with access to the outside world. The organization stated as an example Jews in southern France who were able to move around during the day but hid at night when deportations took place. None of these Holocaust survivors get any pensions from the German government.
The Claims Conference, with offices in New York, Israel and Germany, secures material compensation for Holocaust survivors around the world. Established in 1951 by representatives of 23 major international Jewish organizations, the Claims Conference negotiates for and disburses funds to individuals and organizations and seeks the return of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust.
As a result of negotiations with the Claims Conference since 1952, the German government has paid approximately $90 billion in indemnification to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis. In 2021, the Claims Conference will distribute approximately $625 million in direct compensation to over 260,000 survivors in 83 countries and will allocate approximately $640 million in grants to over 300 social service agencies worldwide that provide vital services for Holocaust survivors, such as home care, food and medicine.
Claims Conference president Gideon Taylor said that “every year, these negotiations become more and more critical, because as this last generation of survivors age, their needs increase. We are thrilled to be able to expand the criteria for survivors again this year, including the first-time pensions for nearly 6,500 survivors. Even 75 years after the Holocaust, these symbolic payments provide recognition and restore a piece of the dignity taken from survivors in their youth.”
The newly negotiated region-specific pension program is open and now accepting applications. Payments will be €375 ($443) per month. Child Survivor Fund payments, a symbolic one-time payment of €2,500 ($2,930), will also be paid to those who meet the persecution criteria and were born 1928 or later.
Former US ambassador to the European Union, who is special negotiator for the Claims Conference’s negotiations delegation said: “I have a commitment to survivors to continue to achieve new and further measures of justice whenever possible. I am again pleased to see more survivors recognized by the German government for their unimaginable suffering. It has been my honor to sit alongside some of these survivors as we negotiate year over year for a continued measure of justice. Sadly, we saw the passing of our long-time colleague, fellow negotiator and friend, Roman Kent amid this year’s negotiations giving a special urgency to the work we have been doing and whose spirit encouraged us to seek the additional funding that we happily obtained.”
Claims Conference executive vice president Greg Schneider added: “Every year across the negotiation table we work to identify, recognize and achieve some measure of justice for every survivor and will continue to do so for as long as even one survivor remains with us. We are honored to be able to deliver this achievement to these survivors who have waited so long for this recognition. These accomplishments are deeply important symbols of Germany’s recognition of suffering, and for many of these survivors the funds will also relieve crushing poverty which require survivors to choose between food, medicine or rent.”
He continued that “at a time when Holocaust survivors globally are facing insurmountable challenges due to COVID and their fragility, we are proud to be able to offer some hope in that roughly $767 million dollars in compensation programs will be dispersed to survivors around the world.”
Last year’s negotiations resulted in two supplemental payments, each of €1,200 (about $1,400) for Jewish Nazi victims eligible for the Hardship fund. Survivors will be receiving the second of two payments beginning December 1, 2021.