Holocaust survivors who worked in ghettos under Nazi-German control during the Second World War received some welcome news last week when German legislators voted to award them an extra €2,000.
The unanimous vote in the German Bundestag, on 5 June, approved back payments of social security pensions to those who currently receive a Ghetto pension, meaning a potential lump-sum payment to any survivor whose current pension started later than July 1997.
In 1997 survivors of the Lodz ghetto were granted pensions, and in 2002, entitlement to a pension was widened to people who had performed work in any ghetto under Nazi control.
Now, up to 40,000 survivors, with an average age of 85, can apply to have their pension re-assessed with a new “start date” of 1997.
If survivors or their widows/widowers opt for a back payment, they could be in-line for €2,000 windfall.
It comes after pressure from Jewish support groups such as the Association for Jewish Refugees (AJR), which has complained about German authorities and their “overly strict interpretation of criteria”. This has resulted in 61,000 out of 70,000 claims being denied.
“Until this amendment, most pensioners have only been able to receive payments dating back four years,” said AJR chief executive Michael Newman.
“Applicants were frustrated by overly strict interpretation of the criteria by local German authorities, resulting in the denial of 61,000 out of 70,000 claims,” he said.
Authorities that pay the pensions will contact pensioners in July to inform them of the decision and to advise how much in back pay they will receive.