Holocaust survivors who were employed in German Jewish ghettos will now receive a pension from Germany.
After more than a decade of bureaucratic foot-dragging and legal battles, the German government has agreed to pay the monthly pensions of survivors who were employed by the Nazi regime during World War II.
The breakthrough was made possible thanks to the persistence of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), which stipulated the pension payments as part of its coalition agreement with Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.
Despite opposition to the condition by senior CDU party members, including Merkel herself, the SPD succeeded in securing the accord as part of its agreement to join the government two months ago.
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The former German government was reluctant to sign an agreement regulating the issue of their pensions, despite a ruling by a Kassel Welfare Court, which agreed to hear the case of three Holocaust survivors, which demanded the State pay them their monthly pension for their time as ghetto workers.
The ruling was expected to open a floodgate of demands by Holocaust survivors from the German government to pay them their dues – roughly €100 to €200 ($136-$273) a month. In some cases, they could even demand retroactive pay going back a decade.
The German pension institute has in the past rejected 70,000 claims by former ghetto workers demanding their pension, claiming that the employment conditions were incongruent with German law. In addition, they refused to pay compensation for those employed through the Judenrat, those whose 'paycheck' was given in the form food, as well as minors and those whose money was paid through a third-party.
The institute rejected more then 95% of the 70,000 claims, with some 10,000 such workers living in Israel as Holocaust survivors.
The court in Kassel rejected the claims the pension institute made, and it established that three claimants – two men and women, ages 80 to 87, who were jailed by the Nazis in Poland and Belarus and worked in a leather factory that belonged to President of the Reichstag Hermann Goering – were eligible to receive their pension.
The court also established that Holocaust survivors that were forced to work and not out of personal choice and received compensation other than money for their work, are eligible to receive pension. It also said that there was no age requirements to receive the pension.
The Committee of Claims, the responsible body for negotiations with German government for compensation for Holocaust survivors, congratulated the court's decision and said that the ruling is consistent with German law for paying compensation to those who worked in ghettos, which was adopted seven years ago. Its application has been met with deliberate bureaucratic difficulties from the German pension institute's side.
Defense minister's visit
During Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's visit to Berlin on Friday, he placed a wreath at a memorial at Platform 17, where Jews were deported to the concentration and death camps.
Ya'alon spoke of his mother, who survived the Holocaust by joining a group of partisans in the forest.
"Despite the difficult past, Germany and Israel have developed a prosperous relationship. Our revenge is our victory, and our victory is the establishment of the State of Israel."