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After months of negotiations, the German government has agreed to add $250 million to its pension program for Holocaust survivors over the next decade, the Claims Conference announced Sunday.
The change, which is expected to benefit around 6,000 elderly Holocaust survivors around the world - nearly one-third of them living in Israel - followed months of negotiations with the German Finance Ministry, the Conference said.
The "Article 2 Fund" pensions will no longer be limited to survivors whose annual income is less than $16,000.
"This was, first and foremost, an issue of principle," said Gideon Taylor, Claims Conference executive vice president. "Since its establishment, the Claims Conference has argued that Holocaust compensation payments are symbolic and should not be based on need."
The agreement on the changes, which go in effect on October 1, stipulates that old age pensions - including governmental pensions and social security payments - will not be counted toward calculation of the income limit, granting benefits to thousands of survivors who were previously ineligible for the stipend, the Conference said.
Germany determines eligibility for the pensions based on a survivor's persecution history, including incarceration in certain camps or ghettos, and time spent in hiding or living under false identity.
Full eligibility criteria are available on the Claims Conference Web site at www.claimscon.org.
Article 2 Fund stipends have paid more than $2 billion to more than 73,000 Holocaust survivors since they were established in 1992 through negotiations with the German government, with monthly payments averaging approximately $320, the Claims Conference said.