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Germany to Give $662 Million to Holocaust Survivors Struggling during Pandemic

October 15, 2020, 08.21 PM

BERLIN, - Germany has set aside $662 million in aid for Holocaust survivors struggling under the burdens of the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also referred to as the Claims Conference, negotiated the half-billion Euro compensation with the German government.

The $662 million funding will be distributed among 240,000 Holocaust survivors around the world, primarily in Israel, North America, the former Soviet Union and Western Europe, over the next two years.

While 75 years have passed since World War II ended, Holocaust survivors are all elderly and they face immense risks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Because Holocaust survivors had been deprived of proper nutrition when they were young, today, they suffer from numerous medical issues.

The atrocities of the Nazi genocide also meant that many Holocaust survivors now live isolated lives having lost their entire families and also have psychological issues because of their persecution under the Nazis.

“There's this kind of standard response for survivors, that 'we've been through worse, I've been through worse and if I survived the Holocaust, through the deprivation of food and what we had to go through, I'll get through this,'” said Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of the Claims Conference, in a telephone interview from New York with The Associated Press.

“But if you probe deeper you understand the depths of trauma that still resides within people.”

Many are also on the poverty line, and the additional costs of masks and other protective gear, delivery groceries, and other pandemic-related expenses have been crushing for many, Schneider said.

“You're teetering between making it every month,” he said. “Having to decide between food, medicine, and rent.”

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The new coronavirus pandemic aid is targeted to Jews who aren't receiving pensions already from Germany, primarily people who fled the Nazis and ended up in Russia and elsewhere to hide during the war.

Schneider said about 50 percent of Holocaust survivors in the US live in Brooklyn and were particularly hard-hit when New York was the center of the American Covid-19 outbreak, but now numbers are looking worse in Israel and other places.

“It’s a rolling calamity,” he said.

Each of those survivors will receive two payments of €1,200 ($1,400) over the next two years, for an overall commitment of approximately €564 million ($662 million) to some of the poorest survivors alive today.

The coronavirus pandemic aid comes on top of an emergency $4.3 million the Claims Conference distributed in the spring to agencies providing care for survivors.

In addition to the coronavirus-related funds, Germany agreed in the recently concluded round of annual negotiations to increase funding for social welfare services for survivors by €30.5 million ($36 million), to a total of €554.5 million ($651 million) for 2021, the Claims Conference said.

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Germany’s foreign ministry had no immediate comment on the latest round of negotiations.

The money is used for services including funding in-home care for more than 83,000 Holocaust survivors and assisting more than 70,000 with other vital services, including food, medicine, transportation to doctors and programs to alleviate social isolation.

As a result of negotiations with the Claims Conference since 1952, the German government has paid more than $80 billion in Holocaust reparations.

Part of the Claims Conference's annual negotiations also includes working with Germany to expand the number of people eligible for compensation.

This year, the German government agreed to recognize 27 “open ghettos” in Bulgaria and Romania, enabling survivors who were in those places to receive compensation payments. 

(Writer: David Rising) 


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