Justice for Survivors of the Holocaust in Centraland Eastern Europe
Only a small number of Jewish Holocaust survivors still live in Central andEastern Europe. Most of them have been suffering to this very day from thephysical and psychological traumas of this persecution.
Survivors who remainedin the Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe after 1945 did notreceive any compensation for their suffering. During the Cold War, the FederalRepublic of Germany refused to make payments to these countries, and it was notpossible for individual victims to apply to any of the compensation programmesset up in the West. Only after the fall of Communism and the reunification ofthe two German states, did the German government agree to sponsor theestablishment of foundations in Poland, with 500 million DM, and in Russia,Ukraine and Belarus, with a combined sum of one billion DM. As these amountswere intended to address the needs of many tens of thousands of Nazi victimsfrom all backgrounds, they do not permit the persecutees to receive more than aone-time payment ranging from several hundred to – in exceptional cases – a fewthousand marks. If one considers the extent of the suffering many of thesepeople endured, these sums are little more than token charitable handouts.Survivors in other countries – Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, for example – donot have recourse to even this. These survivors deserve a regular monthlypension to allow them to live the last few years of their lives in dignity.
Asthe representative of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, the Claims Conferencenegotiated with the German government in 1992 for the creation of a special fundto address the needs primarily of uncompensated victims. Known as the Article 2Fund (with reference to that section of the German Unification Agreement whichmandated these negotiations) it provides for a monthly pension of 500 DM tothose Nazi victims
|who had suffered most severely – incarcerated in aconcentration camp for at least six months, in a ghetto for at least eighteenmonths, or in hiding under inhuman conditions for at least eighteen months – whohad received little or no compensation in the past and who were in financialneed. However, under the terms demanded by the German government, these fundsare available only to victims residing in Germany, Israel, the United States andcertain other Western Countries. While it may benefit those Nazi victims fromEastern Europe and the former Soviet Union who chose to emigrate, it can donothing for those who remain behind.
Having waited more than fifty years forindemnification, these victims are now compelled to leave their country if theywish to receive a pension from the German government. The vast majority of thesesurvivors in Central and Eastern Europe are over seventy years old; most live inextremely poor conditions without appropriate medical or social assistance. Inspite of their needs, they cannot confront the physical and emotional ordeal ofemigration at this time in their lives. Further delay in providing these victimswith the modest pensions they deserve only serves to allow more to die in astate of poverty and bitterness.
We appeal to the government of the FederalRepublic of Germany and to the German Parliament to implement immediately aprogramme of compensation that will address equally and fairly the claims ofthese most severe victims of Nazi persecution. Agreements should be concludedwith the Claims Conference as quickly as possible that will extend theprovisions of the Article 2 funds to victims residing in Central and EasternEurope. Existing regulations should be altered, as necessary, and adequate fundsprovided.
Justice demands no less, and it demands it now.
I support this international appeal.
Please return to: The American Jewish Committee, Office of EuropeanAffairs, 1156 Fifteenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005, Fax: 202 7854115