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New pension deal for survivor spouses

Claims Conference announces that Germany has agreed to extend compensation to surviving spouses, taking the total to be paid out by 2020 to $1bn

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Westerbork concentration camp
Westerbork concentration camp

The Claims Conference, which handles claims on behalf of Jews who suffered under the Nazis, has announced that Germany has agreed to extend compensation to their surviving spouses and to increase other payments, taking the total to be paid out in 2020 to around $1 billion.

Until now, pension payments to Holocaust survivors had been stopped upon their death, but the New York-based Claims Conference said that Berlin has now agreed to continue survivor pensions for nine months after a death to the spouse.

The payment is expected to be granted to around 14,000 spouses retroactively — and a total of about 30,000 people are expected to qualify.

Claims Conference negotiator Greg Schneider said: “We have survivors who have been just getting by for many years. This extra nine months of income gives a cushion for the family of the survivor to figure out how to deal with their new circumstances.”

The Claims Conference carries out continuous negotiations with the German government to expand categories of people eligible for compensation for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis. Since 1952, Germany has paid more than $80 billion.

The Claims Conference established its own fund in 1963 to aid additionally, Righteous Gentiles — non-Jews who helped Jews survive the Holocaust — and this year the German government agreed to help fund those payments.

Schneider said there were 277 Righteous Gentiles still alive today, whose average age is 91, who have indicated they need financial assistance.

“These are non-Jews who risked their lives and the lives of their families to save Jews during the Holocaust They literally put their lives at stake to save others,” Schneider said. “Every one of these people should live with the greatest of dignity, so it was important for us to ensure an ongoing funding stream.”

Meanwhile, at a ceremony in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, Dutch Railways announced a new scheme to compensate Holocaust victims and their families.

Roger van Boxtel, the chief executive of Nederlandse Spoorwegen, or NS, announced that survivors would receive 15,000 euros. The recipients include about 500 Jews, Roma and Sinti who were transported to Nazi extermination camps, but survived. Relatives and widows of the transported survivors are to receive between 5,000 and 7,500 euros.

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