BERLIN (JTA) – Germany has approved retroactive pension payments, going back to 1997, to all Holocaust survivors who worked in NaziÂ ghettos.
The aim was to find a more just compensation for both slave laborersÂ and those who were paid something at the time.
The Federal Cabinet announced the change on Monday. The amended ghettoÂ pension law, which is to come into force this summer, will affectÂ about 40,000 Holocaust survivors, about 13,000 of them in Israel.
The decision to act as quickly as possible came out of “a sense ofÂ historical responsibility for Holocaust survivors, who experiencedÂ untold suffering under National Socialism,” the government said in aÂ statement.
“None of us today can imagine any more what it meant to work underÂ inhumane conditions in a National Socialist ghetto,” Federal MinisterÂ of Social Affairs Andrea Nahles said. “And yet there are still tens ofÂ thousands among us who were forced to endure this harsh fate” and hadÂ to wait until 2002 for any kind of pension.
The payments affect former ghetto workers who have filed anÂ application for a pension. Previously, they could only claim a maximumÂ of four years in back payments from the time of filing. SomeÂ applicants were rejected, only to be accepted after a lengthy reviewÂ process, the government noted.
Now, applicants will receive retroactive payments back to 1997: “AndÂ quickly, with no red-tape,” Nahles added. “It is important that weÂ have found a mutually acceptable resolution, after so many years.”
Eligible survivors can have their pension payment adjusted accordingÂ to two formulas: either the newly calculated pension including aÂ back payment and a slightly lower monthly rent, or aÂ slightly increased monthly pension, but no back payment.
The average payment per person would be about $20,500, Der SpiegelÂ magazine reported earlier this year.
German pension funds will be required to write to all known eligibleÂ survivors about the change in the law, whenever possible in theirÂ native language.
The announcement follows Germany’s annual Cabinet talks with theirÂ Israeli counterparts, an exchange that German Chancellor Angela MerkelÂ initiated in 2008.