Jewish Journal

Reparation Overview

by Michael Freeman

Posted on Nov. 14, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Open Claims

Hardship Fund: Established in 1980, provides a one-time $2,500 payment to survivors who were previously unable to apply for compensation under the West German Indemnification Act of 1952/BEG (typically because they lived behind the Iron Curtain), suffered considerable damage to health, and currently are in financial need. No proposed deadline.

Article 2: Intended for survivors who have received minimal or no Holocaust compensation. Monthly pension of $250 paid in quarterly installments. No proposed deadline. The German government has recently expanded the eligibility criteria to include newly recognized camps, indexing of payments, and double income limits.

The Blue Card: The only agency in the United States that provides cash to Holocaust survivors in extreme financial need and, when necessary, to their children for mental health needs.

International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC): ICHEIC consists of representatives of U.S. insurance regulators, five European insurance companies (Allianz, Generali, AXA, Winterthur and Zurich), the State of Israel, worldwide Jewish and Holocaust survivor organizations, and European regulators and observers. Holocaust victims and their heirs can file claims for unpaid insurance policies (life, dowry and education). Closes March 30, 2003.

Austrian Reconciliation Fund: Payments to former slave and forced laborers under the National Socialism regime who performed labor in the territory of present-day Austria. Closes Nov. 27, 2002.

Austrian Victims Assistance Act: Legislation recently provided an increase in funds for monthly nursing care allowance.

Austrian Social Welfare Benefits: Under Austrian social insurance law, victims of Nazi persecution can qualify for old age, disability and survivor pensions, provided they pay retroactive contributions at a reduced rate into the Austrian social insurance system. No filing deadline.

Austrian General Settlement Fund: On Jan. 31, 2001 the Austrian government adopted a General Settlement Fund Law for the comprehensive settlement of open questions of compensation and restitution for victims of National Socialism. The Fund has an endowment of $210 million. The filing deadline is May 27, 2003.

Croatia: Former Jewish citizens whose property was confiscated under the wartime fascist and post-war Communist regimes are eligible for compensation of up to $500,000. Claims may also be filed by their children and grandchildren. Filing deadline is Jan. 5, 2003.

Slovakia: Under amended Holocaust-era compensation laws, more people are now eligible to receive compensation for deportation to Nazi concentration camps. In October 2002, Slovakia signed an agreement with the Jewish community to establish a fund that will partially compensate Slovak Jews who lost their property during the Nazi and Communist eras. No details on the claims process have yet been announced.

German Social Security Pension: A change in legislation expands German Social Security pensions to cover work performed in all ghettos during Nazi occupation: if the ghetto was in an area occupied by, or incorporated into, the Reich. Claim form is currently not available. However, survivors are advised to immediately establish a filing date with the German Social Security Offices by submitting a letter that requests the claim form. The filing deadline is June 30, 2003.

Indemnification Commission for the Belgian Jewish Community's Assets: The Belgian banks signed an agreement to pay about $54 million in compensation for property lost during the Nazi occupation. The standard form for new claims is available at www.premier.fgov.be under the link "Jewish Community Indemnification Commission." Claims already submitted to the former Study Commission or the Federal Public Department Chancellery and General Services are still valid and will not have to be re-submitted. The deadline is March 19, 2003.

Czech Republic: Legislature has extended deadline to 2006 to file for return of Nazi-looted art work.

Fund for Victims of Medical Experiments and Other Injuries: The Fund has received more than 5,000 claims. The German Foundation has not yet announced when it will accept medical experiment claims for review and payment.

Closed Claims

German Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future" (Program for Former Slave and Forced Laborers): Established in July 2000. Payments for Jewish slave and forced laborers and other victims of Nazi persecution. As of May 2002, German Foundation has received a total of 253,546 claims and has approved 98,870 claims. Survivors submitting late claims must include a letter explaining the hardship that resulted in the untimely claim.

Romania Property Restitution: Restitution of properties that were confiscated by the Communist regime between 1945-1989. Closed Feb. 14, 2002.

 Swiss Bank Settlement: In 1998, Switzerland's two largest commercial banks agreed to pay $1.25 billion for claims of survivors whose families lost assets. Included in the settlement are claims for slave labor performed for Swiss companies, companies that deposited assets in Switzerland, survivors denied entry or expelled from Switzerland or mistreated after entry to Switzerland.

BEG "Wiedergutmachung": West German Federal Indemnification Law enacted in 1952 to provide monthly pensions for survivors and one-time payment for deprivation of liberty.

International Organization for Migration (IOM): IOM handles property-loss claims from both Jewish and non-Jewish survivors. It also processes slave and forced labor claims from non-Jewish victims living anywhere in the world except for the Czech Republic, Poland and former Soviet republics. IOM has humanitarian programs for Roma and Sinti. Closed Dec. 31, 2001.

The Swiss Fund for Needy Victims of the Holocaust: Humanitarian gesture to aid needy Holocaust victims with a small one-time grant of $502. Closed Nov. 30, 1998.

Austrian National Fund: More than 15,000 survivors received approximately $7,000 each for loss of property and household contents. Closed Feb. 23, 2002.

Other Compensation News

Waiver of Bank Wire Transfer Fees: Selected banks have agreed to waive the electronic wire transfer fees on incoming compensation payments to Holocaust survivors (Article 2 Fund, BEG and German Foundation slave and forced labor payments).

National Foundation for the Study of Holocaust Assets Act: Under a bill introduced by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Dist. 24), it is proposed to create a public/private foundation to promote further research and education in the area of Holocaust-era assets and restitution policy and to support innovative solutions to contemporary restitution policy issues.

"Invisible Victims": Disabled rights advocates in California are filing for a portion of the restitution funds to underwrite museum exhibits and a monument to the more than 300,000 disabled German citizens who were slaughtered during the Holocaust, often with the help of their own physicians. Since few disabled survivors remain to receive reparations, it has been proposed that money also be used to fund disabled rights programs in Europe.

Rhodes: Issue reparation and/or pension claims for Italian citizens from Rhodes. The German Ministry of Finance (oversees compensation programs and funding of the German Federal Government) agreed to the creation of a working group on this issue.

Bergier Report: Final assessment of the conduct of the Swiss government and industry during the war and afterwards. The scathing indictment on the "egregious moral failures" of Swiss authorities and industry concluded: 1. The refugee wartime policy that knowingly turned back thousands of Jews to certain death, contributed to the most atrocious of Nazi objectives -- the Holocaust. 2. Swiss gold purchases from Nazi Germany continued even when it became obvious that the gold was looted. 3. Excessive cooperation extended to Nazi Germany -- Swiss authorities requested as early as 1938 that passports from German Jews be stamped in Germany with the letter "J." 4. Eleven-thousand laborers were forced to work in Swiss-owned factories in Germany. 5. Swiss refusal to return deposited assets to owners or their heirs after the war. The Swiss government noted that it apologized to the Jews in 1995.

Lithuania: The prime minister has established a commission for the return of Jewish property. Approximately 95 percent of Lithuania's 220,000 pre-war Jewish community perished during the Holocaust.

Labor in Freiburg: One-time compensation payment to former laborers forced to work for the city of Freiburg during Nazi rule.

Poland: Blasted on restitution July 17, 2002, U.S. lawmakers stated that Poland has not done enough to return Jewish property seized by the Nazis. At present, there are no legal provisions for submitting property asset claims against Poland. It has been estimated that the financial toll in Poland exceeds $10 billion.

France Holocaust-Era Assets: Names of Jewish asset-holders in France will be submitted to Israel. Survivors will be able to check whether they appear on the list of names in order to file a claim. Previously, French privacy laws prohibited public publication of names.

Worst records in Europe on art/property restitution: Poland, Romania and Czech Republic. Poland -- not a single claimant has succeeded in court. Romania -- 188,000 claims unanswered. Czech Republic -- when claims are filed for the return of artwork, the government declares the artwork a national treasure that cannot be removed from the country.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Upholds Holocaust Statute: The 9th Circuit recently upheld California's Holocaust Victim Insurance Relief Act (HVIRA), which is designed to help Holocaust survivors and their families in obtaining information from European insurance companies. The ruling marks the first time a higher federal court has upheld such a state statute. The law requires any insurer doing business in California to disclose information about any policy sold in Europe between 1920 and 1945. The U.S. Justice Department argued on behalf of insurers, fearing that state law would worsen U.S. relations with other countries.

Tax Measures United States: Compensation payments to Holocaust survivors will be excluded from inheritance tax.

Reparations-Related Links

Austrian General Settlement Fund: www.nationalfonds.org/aef/english/index.htm

The Claims Conference: www.claimscon.org

Czech Republic "Property Confiscation List: www.hrad.cz/kpr/holocaust/index_uk.html

Living Heirs: www.livingheirs.com

National Archives & Records

Administration: www.archives.gov/research_room/holocaust_era_assets/index.html

New York State Holocaust Claims Processing Office: www.claims.state.ny.us

Simon Wiesenthal Center: www.wiesenthal.com

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: www.ushmm.org

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner: www.insurance.wa.gov

The above overview on Holocaust reparation programs, deadlines and contacts was compiled by Michael Freeman of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, who can be contacted at (323) 939-0506 or at mfreeman@bettzedek.org.

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