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Germany marks 70 years of compensating Holocaust survivors

Nahum Goldman, President of the Jewish Claims Commission, centre, signs agreements between Germany and Israel in a ceremony in Luxembourg on September 10 1952 (AP)
Nahum Goldman, President of the Jewish Claims Commission, centre, signs agreements between Germany and Israel in a ceremony in Luxembourg on September 10 1952 (AP)

The organisation handling claims on behalf of Jews who suffered under the Nazis said Germany has agreed to pay approximately 1.2 billion euros (£1.04 billion) for home care and compensation for Holocaust survivors living around the world in 2023.

It will bring the overall amount of compensation Germany has paid to more than 80 billion euros (£69.45 billion).

The announcement came as Germany marked the 70th anniversary of the signing of the compensation agreement that made it possible for Holocaust survivors to receive a measure of justice — the so-called Luxembourg Agreements.

More than six million European Jews were murdered by Germany’s Nazis and their henchmen during the Third Reich.

West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer signs agreements providing compensation for Jews who suffered under Nazi Germany in a ceremony in Luxembourg on September 10 1952
West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer signs agreements providing compensation for Jews who suffered under Nazi Germany in a ceremony in Luxembourg on September 10 1952 (AP)

“The extermination of European Jews by the Nazis left a horrific chasm, not only in global Jewry, but in global humanity,” said Gideon Taylor, the president of the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also referred to as the Claims Conference.

“These agreements laid the groundwork for compensation and restitution for those survivors who had lost everything and continue to serve as the foundation for the ongoing negotiations on behalf of the estimated 280,00 Holocaust survivors living around the world,” Mr Taylor added.

On Thursday, the German government invited hundreds of guests — including Holocaust survivors and members of the Claims Conference — to a ceremony at Berlin’s Jewish Museum to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the agreement and underline the special responsibility the country bears for the past, the present and the future.

“The Luxembourg Agreements were fundamental and led to financial compensation in the amount of more than 80 billion euros Germany has paid by the end of 2021,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who also attended the ceremony.

“The payments to survivors and the home care programme are very close to our heart,” he added.

The Luxembourg Agreements, concluded in 1952, created the basis for all subsequent compensations for Nazi persecution.

The negotiations were very contentious at the time and even led to violent protests in Israel, where some argued that accepting reparation payments — which they called blood money — was the equivalent of forgiving the Nazis for their crimes.

Still, it was the first time in history that a defeated power paid compensation to civilians for losses and suffering.

“As visionary as those original negotiators were, they could not have possibly imagined the long-term and deep consequences of the Holocaust on survivors,” Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, told the Associated Press.

“No one possibly imagined that 70 years later there would still be elderly Holocaust survivors who were so impoverished, who were so needy, who were still suffering the dire consequences,” he said, adding that was the reason why the results of this year’s negotiation include an increase in home care of 130 million euros (£112.9 million).

Among other payments, 12 million euros (£10.4 million) emergency humanitarian payments will be given to 8,500 Ukrainian Holocaust survivors, and 170 million euros (£147.6 million) will go to a special hardship fund that will impact approximately 143,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide.

As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, teaching the coming generations about the atrocities committed during the genocide of the Jewish people becomes ever more important.

Therefore, Germany agreed for the first time in the negotiations to specifically fund Holocaust education — with 10 million euros (£8.7 million) for 2022, 25 million euros (£21.7 million) for 2023, 30 million euros (£26 million) for 2024 and 35 million euros (£30.4 million) for 2025.