Germany to finally compensate Jewish survivors of siege of Leningrad

Accord marks the first time that persecution of Jewish survivors of the 900-day siege has been recognized by Germany.

After seven years of negotiations, the German government has agreed to allocate a one-time payment to some of the Jewish survivors of the Nazi siege of Leningrad during World War II, the New York-based Claims Conference announced Sunday. The "historic" agreement will provide thousands of Jewish victims of Nazism from the former Soviet Union, now living in Israel, the United States, Germany and other Western countries with a payment of €2,556 or NIS 15,000, the organization said. The accord was expected to affect about 6,000 people, Conference spokeswoman Orly Joseph said. The agreement marks the first time that the persecution of Jews who lived through the 900-day siege of Leningrad has been recognized by Germany. According to the accord, women over the age of 60 and men over the age of 65 are eligible for the benefits. The non-Jewish survivors of the siege are eligible for benefits worked out with Germany in a separate agreement. The siege of Leningrad, which lasted from September 9, 1941, to January 18, 1943, was one of the longest and most destructive sieges of a major city in modern history. During the siege, the Nazis cut all water and power while subjecting residents to constant air attacks and artillery bombardment. The population of about 3 million was left to starve and freeze to death. An estimated 1m. residents died during the siege. As German forces advanced toward Leningrad in 1941, Jewish residents tried to move as close as possible to the center of the city. Those Jews who were unable to flee from the Nazis and stayed in territories that became occupied were tortured and killed. The largest Nazi massacre of Jews occurred in Pushkin, a suburb of Leningrad, where a group of 800 Jews were gathered in a palatial cellar, and then shot to death in a nearby park. The agreement comes amid mounting public criticism of the Claims Conference following a series of journalistic investigations into the lack of accountability and transparency at the organization. The agency has also been censured for spending too much on education and research projects, and not enough on helping destitute survivors. About 250,000 Holocaust survivors are living in Israel. About one-third of them - primarily new immigrants from the former Soviet Union - live in poverty, recent Israeli welfare reports have found, prompting a recent landmark government accord to increase their state stipends.