16,000 More Holocaust Survivors Now Eligible for Pensions

More than 16,000 Holocaust survivors who have been denied German compensation pensions will now be eligible to receive them as a result of Claims Conference negotiations with the German government. The agreement will result in at least €485 million (approximately $650 million) in additional Claims Conference payments over the next decade.

Prior to the negotiations, certain survivors were only eligible for pensions from the Claims Conference Article 2 Fund and the Central and Eastern European Fund (CEEF) if they had been in a ghetto, in hiding, or living under false identity for at least 18 months during the Nazi era. This minimum time period of persecution was part of the eligibility criteria established by the German government, and which the Claims Conference for years has been working to change.

As of January 1, 2012, the minimum time period for having lived under any of these conditions will be reduced to 12 months. The Claims Conference estimates that this change will make an additional 8,000 survivors eligible for pensions, who are estimated to receive a total of about €290 ($406) million over the next 10 years.

Further, as of January 1, 2012, those survivors age 75 and over who were in a ghetto for less than 12 months but a minimum of three months will be entitled to a special monthly pension of €240 if they live in the West or €200 if they live in the countries of the former Soviet bloc, if they meet the other eligibility criteria of the programs. This change should result in new payments for about 4,500 survivors in 2012, with a total of approximately €130 million to be paid over the next decade. Further, an additional estimated 3,500 survivors will become eligible as they reach age 75 over the coming years, who the Claims Conference estimates will be paid a total of €65 million over the next decade. This liberalization will drastically change the compensation programs, especially for those who endured the Budapest Ghetto.

“We have long emphasized to the German government that they cannot quantify the suffering of a Holocaust survivor who lived in the hell of a ghetto, where starvation, disease, and deportations were a way of life. Nor should they refuse to recognize the unimaginable fear of a Jew in Nazi Europe who survived for any period of time in hiding or by living under a false identity, when discovery would have been a death sentence,” said Claims Conference Chairman Julius Berman.

These liberalizations will largely affect child survivors, whose special plight has been a primary focus of recent discussions between the Claims Conference and the German Ministry of Finance. The Claims Conference and the German government have agreed to establish a working group to review the special plight of child survivors, defined as those born in 1928 or later.

Together, the Article 2 Fund and CEEF have paid approximately $3.5 billion to more than 109,000 Holocaust survivors since 1995. Both programs were created as a result of intensive Claims Conference negotiations with the German government.

The Claims Conference meets regularly with German government officials to negotiate changes to these and other programs so that additional Holocaust victims may receive compensation payments. Negotiations focus on expanding the criteria for compensation programs, so that the experiences of more Holocaust victims are recognized, and on increasing payment amounts.