Holocaust survivors whose villages were kept under curfew during World War II will be eligible for reparations without needing to meet an extra criterion recently published by the Finance Ministry, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
The decision overturns an earlier ruling by a lower court.
Some 5,000 survivors, mostly from Bulgaria and Romania, will now be eligible for compensation. These survivors lived in villages that were kept under strict, nearly round-the-clock curfew by the Nazis, though they were not removed from their homes.
The precedent-setting ruling revolves around the case of Haim Hershko, 85, who asked to receive compensation for the suffering he underwent during the war.
After Hershko was found eligible, the Finance Ministry demanded that he also prove that during the period of restrictions, his freedom of movement had still been limited during the two hours or so a day that the curfew was lifted. This criterion, the Treasury said, would be applied to any survivor with a history similar to Hershko's.
According to a press statement published by the Weber-Yakovovic-Feder law firm, where Hershko's lawyer Ilan Yakovovic practices, Hershko was facing an impossible situation where he was forced to produce documents proving events that occurred at least 64 years ago and that were never in the past demanded of him.
The Tel Aviv District Court backed the Finance Ministry, but Yakovovic appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
A panel of three justices ruled unanimously that the new criterion would be stricken from the procedure and compensation would be paid to survivors who lived under curfew, without need for further proofs.
"This is a great victory to all Holocaust survivors," Yakovovic said Tuesday. "There are about 5,000 Holocaust survivors who are today eligible to receive compensation over having been held under curfew during the war, mostly from Bulgaria and Romania.
"The more hurdles and difficulties the law puts in the way of survivors, the longer court cases take," he added. "Unlike the Treasury, time is an asset of which survivors have precious little left."
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