On December 2, 2020, we blogged on Germany’s recent decision to expand pension payments to spouses of Holocaust survivors who are now deceased. Under the amended criteria, spouses are entitled to this payment for up to nine months. Prior to this decision, pension payments expired upon the survivor’s death.
Deeply intrigued by this dark period in our relatively recent history and the effects it continues to have on the heirs and estates of survivors in our modern world, we have again chosen to focus our blog on Holocaust reparations – this time from the French government.
In 2014, France agreed to pay reparations, in the amount of $60 million to certain qualifying Holocaust survivors, their heirs and their estates (known as the “The 2014 Agreement”). This Agreement was proposed in response to a lawsuit initiated by non-French survivors who had been deported to death camps from France via S.N.C.F., which was a state-owned railway system. Survivors argued that S.N.C.F. was complicit with the Nazis’ premeditated murders during World War 2. France ultimately agreed to pay survivors who had been transported to concentration camps via S.N.C.F. reparations in exchange for recipients agreeing to renounce their right to sue.
The 2014 Agreement sought to distribute reparations to victims who had been largely ignored under prior agreements and settlements.
Former Ambassador and the State Department’s expert advisor on Holocaust issues, Stuart Eizenstat, assisted in negotiating this Agreement. As a result of the Agreement, forty-nine survivors received approximately $400,000 in reparations. Thirty-two spouses of survivors who had already passed on received up to $100,000 under this Agreement. Heirs and estates of deportees were also eligible for payment.
Holocaust survivors constitute a unique population of individuals who were robbed of the opportunity to inherit wealth. Though reparations cannot make up for the suffering of the past, they represent a recognition of fault and soothe, for some, the pain of loss.
Thanks for reading!
Suzana Popovic-Montag & Tori Joseph
Holocaust survivor pension payments address a moral dilemma, not a financial dilemma. After bearing witness to the horrors of the Holocaust – one of the worst atrocities of mankind – survivors had to put back together the broken pieces of their lives. Upon losing everything, survivors were forced to rebuild from nothing.
Until recently, pension payments to Holocaust survivors expired upon death. The Claims Conference, an organization dedicated to attaining some measure of justice for Jewish Holocaust victims, negotiated with the German government to expand these payments. Over 75 years since liberation, many survivors have now passed on or are quickly advancing in age. Chairman of the Claims Conference, Julius Berman, is committed to ensuring comfort, care and dignity for survivors in their final years. As Berman so eloquently stated, “it remains our moral imperative to keep fighting as long as there are still survivors with us.”
As of July 2019, spouses of survivors are now entitled to receive pension payments from the German government for up to nine months after the survivor’s passing. Approximately 14,000 spouses are expected to be granted this payment retroactively, with a further 30,000 individuals qualifying. Additionally, there are several welfare organizations that offer a variety of services to Holocaust survivors, such as psychological services and in-home care, that will be receiving additional funding from the German government.
Germany also agreed to contribute to the Claims Conference Fund for Righteous Gentiles (non-Jews who assisted Jewish people during the war), which was established in 1963. This fund recognizes the selfless and heroic acts of non-Jewish individuals who endangered their lives and the lives of their families in order to save Jews. According to Claims Conference negotiator, Greg Schneider, there are roughly 277 Righteous Gentiles still alive who are in need of financial assistance.
Individuals who meet the requirements of an “eligible Holocaust victim” in accordance with German government guidelines, can apply to Claims Conference Compensation Programs.
Thanks for reading… Have a wonderful Wednesday!
Suzana Popovic-Montag & Tori Joseph