UK denied compensation to thousands of Holocaust victims, papers reveal

Documents show that out of 4,206 applicants, less than a quarter (1,015) received benefits.

March 31, 2016 10:39
1 minute read.
A red rose lies at Gleis 17 (platform 17) holocaust memorial in Berlin

A red rose lies at Gleis 17 (platform 17) holocaust memorial at a former cargo railway station in Berlin-Grunewald. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Newly released records revealed for the first time Thursday that thousands of traumatized Holocaust survivors have struggled to receive compensation from the United Kingdom, according to The Jewish Chronicle.

The report cited documents that show that out of 4,206 applicants, less than a quarter (1,015) received benefits.

Established in 1964, the Nazi Persecution Compensation plan was designed to allocate up to 4,000 pounds ($5730) to each individual given to Britain by Germany.

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But documents show that applicants were denied financial assistance if they could not prove they were held in a concentration camp or similar institution, according to the rules imposed by the British government.

Thursday saw the UK Foreign Office release over 900 documents, with four more batches expected to be made public in the coming weeks.

One example of a Holocaust survivor's battle with the UK government was highlighted by Theresienstadt prisoner Gertrude Kuhnert, who wrote numerous letters to the Foreign Office demanding more assistance.

Kuhnert was provided a total of $1,840 during the 1960's, but explained that as a "Nazi victim" she was "by no means content with the payment."

"After all, in our country I get no compensation for loss of property or life, (compared to) what other countries did pay for their Nazi-victims,” The Jewish Chronicle quoted Kuhnert as saying.

“The war criminals are better off than we, Nazi victims, are — besides we would not sell our life story so quickly,” she added.

In one internal memo drafted by the Foreign Office, the department justifies the allotment stating: “Mrs Kuhnert was as much the victim of her own nerves as anything — the Nazis do not seem to have actually done anything directly against her.”

During a viewing of the records Wednesday, National Archives record specialist Dr George Hay explained that the Foreign Office had little choice but to adhere to the strict guidelines placed upon the department.

“The government wanted to help people and didn’t want to be callous or unfair, but people had to meet the criteria,” he explained.“Almost always, those rejected were met with a well-written and thought-out explanation.”

Dr Hay said Britain had pushed Germany to give more money, enough to compensate twice as many people, The Jewish Chronicle noted. 

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