Holocaust survivors to receive increase in compensation from Germany

There are some 200,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel. Tragically, around 50,000 of them live around or below the poverty line.

June 24, 2019 04:39
2 minute read.
Holocaust survivors to receive increase in compensation from Germany

HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS visit the site of the Auschwitz death camp, during ceremonies marking the 73rd anniversary of the camp’s liberation and International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day, in Poland in January 2018... (photo credit: KACPER PEMPEL / REUTERS)

Holocaust survivors are set to receive an upgrade in the compensation they receive from the German government, after an agreement was signed on Thursday between the finance ministries of Israel and Germany.

The Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority – which is housed within the Finance Ministry and leads the initiative to improve the conditions of Holocaust survivors in Israel – assessed that there was a need to increase the stipends the German government pays directly to survivors.

The lengthy negotiation between the authorities resulted in the signing of a memorandum of understanding, according to which survivors will receive an additional €100-€400 per month. This increase will raise total funds that Germany pays them each year to €15 million.

“I am pleased to announce the significant addition to the benefits of Holocaust survivors who are receiving direct stipends from Germany,” said the authority’s director, Ofra Ross, who called the addition “unprecedented.”

She further thanked the German representatives for their professional negotiations and goodwill in reaching this agreement.

The Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority has also implemented measures to improve the lives of survivors. The steps include grants of NIS 10,000 a year, exemptions on paying for medicine, increased nursing assistance, and employing volunteers to ease their loneliness.

There are some 200,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel, with around 50,000 living at or below the poverty line.

Aviva Silberman, founder of Aviv for Holocaust Survivors, which helps survivors navigate and get informed on their rights, welcomed the agreement.

“Finally they raised the compensation level for Holocaust survivors,” Silberman said, explaining that the compensation law (Bundesentschädigungsgesetz) hadn’t been updated since the 1960s.

“For years nothing was done about it,” Silverman said. “While here in Israel they kept on updating and raising the payments, the BEG was stagnant and stayed at the same amount. It is very meaningful.”

Ultimately, however, the new agreement will affect only around 7,000 survivors, partly because most survivors who signed up to the BEG until the ’60s are deceased by now, and, as Silberman explained, because survivors are categorized according to different criteria.

Survivors from North Africa, for example, who suffered from the Holocaust but were not directly swept up in it, do not receive compensation from Germany. The same goes for emigrants from the former Soviet Union and survivors who did not undergo forced labor.

“The payment structure for Holocaust survivors is complex,” Silberman said.

While Israel’s Finance Ministry has recognized many more survivors in recent years, they still do not receive appropriate compensation for the suffering, with some of them receiving as little as NIS 4,000 a year.

“It is the role of the Germans to take care of these populations as well,” Silberman added. “It’s not Israelis who are responsible for the Holocaust. It’s not you and me who have to pay survivors from our taxes.

“While the government does need to take care of these additional populations, it also needs to come from Germany,” she said, adding that “I think they should continue to negotiate with the Germans as successfully as they did now, so that they recognize these populations as well.”

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