Germany to sign new benefits accord for Nazi victims
BERLIN — German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said a new agreement he will sign Thursday with the Jewish Claims Conference will help Holocaust survivors who had never received compensation.
Schaeuble and JCC chief Julius Berman are to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Luxembourg Agreement in which West Germany assumed responsibility for the Holocaust and paid reparations to Jewish survivors.
The ceremony at Berlin's Jewish Museum will see them seal a new accord widening the group of people eligible for payments and tailoring compensation to elderly recipients' needs.
"In eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union there are still people who were not entitled to make claims," he told Berlin public broadcaster rbb-inforadio.
"And because those people who were entitled were identified, we said they should also receive (payments)."
Schaeuble noted that the task of ensuring reparations to all victims of the Nazis was complicated by the unfathomable dimensions of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were murdered.
"The crime of the Holocaust was so unimaginably huge that we don't know the names of all of those killed, nor of all those who are entitled to make claims and that is why we have to keep making adjustments," he said.
The JCC has worked to ensure compensation for Jewish victims of Nazi persecution since 1951 and fights for the return of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust. It says there are around 500,000 Holocaust survivors still alive today.
It wrapped up negotiations with German officials in Washington in June to ensure that another 80,000 Holocaust survivors in eastern Europe would receive compensation.
In addition, about 100,000 ageing Jewish victims of the Nazis will be entitled home care services.
The JCC estimates the accord will cost Berlin about $300 million.
Schaeuble recalled that the agreement being signed Thursday was an update of an extension dating from 1992, two years after Germany reunified following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Jewish victims of the Nazis who have never received compensation will get an immediate payment of about 2,500 euros ($3,190).
Those who spent at least three months in a concentration camp or ghetto or spent six months in hiding are entitled to a monthly pension of 300 euros.
Under the Luxembourg Agreement signed on September 10, 1952, West Germany accepted responsibility for the Nazi genocide and paid more than three billion marks (about 1.5 billion euros) to the state of Israel and the JCC.
It was widely seen as West Germany's first major step back into the community of nations after World War II.
To date, Germany has paid an estimated $70 billion to Holocaust survivors and programmes that aid survivors, according to the JCC.
The communist East German government saw itself as a bulwark against fascism and rejected any claim to liability for the Nazis' crimes.
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