Germany has agreed to provide more than a half billion euros to aid Holocaust survivors struggling under the burdens of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization that negotiates compensation with the German government said Wednesday.
The payments will be going to approximately 240,000 survivors around the world, primarily in Israel, North America, the former Soviet Union and Western Europe, over the next two years, according to the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also referred to as the Claims Conference.
Each of those survivors will receive two payments of 1,200 euros ($1,400) over the next two years, for an overall commitment of approximately 564 million euros ($662 million) to some of the poorest survivors alive today. The funds come 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 euros ($36 million), to a total of 554.5 million ($651 million) for 2021, the Claims Conference said.
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.
The payments are set to go into effect starting December 1.
According to the Claims Conference, "the pandemic has adversely affected the elderly, and survivors have faced an onslaught of health, emotional, and financial hurdles."
"A significant population of survivors, especially those in the former Soviet Union, live in poverty, and the coronavirus has only exacerbated their economic situation.
"These additional funds will assist survivors in battling the dramatic rise in the cost of groceries and other necessities. Alongside additional delivery fees for survivors who are advised to remain at home, and the extra cost of personal protective equipment, these supplemental payments will ease their burden in these trying times."
According to Minister for Social Equality Mirav Cohen, some 90,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel already receive a yearly stipend of NIS 4,000.
"We are at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, which particularly hurts the elderly and the Holocaust survivors among them," she said. "What has been achieved in the negotiations between the Claims Conference and the German government is a tremendous success which will aid those dear to us and I thank the German government for its cooperation."
The German government also agreed to expand its criteria and include over 3,000 survivors from Romania and Bulgaria following reports on "open ghettos" in both countries during World War II by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.