Berlin says it has accepted "all" ghetto labour claims
Berlin accepts claims of Jews living in ghettos during the Second World War.
10th January 2008
Berlin (dpa) - Berlin has accepted all of the claims it has processed so far for lump-sum pensions for Jews confined by the Nazis in Second World War ghettoes, an official says.
The German Finance Ministry said it had several thousand claims in its in-tray after Berlin appropriated 100 million euros and agreed to pay 2,000 euros apiece to ghetto survivors who have missed out on past compensation programmes.
Ministry spokesman Torsten Albig said Berlin would review claims that the application form was clumsily worded and had a trick question that led to many applicants disqualifying themselves.
The compensation is reserved for people who could not claim forced-labour pensions from Germany because they obtained regular paid work in the ghettoes, the Jewish-only city zones set up by the Nazis in eastern Europe as the Holocaust got under way.
Holocaust survivor organizations in Israel say that many eligible Israelis misunderstood the application form and incorrectly ticked a box reading, "I was forced to do the work."
Many ghetto survivors felt they had no choice but to volunteer for labour, because the alternative was death, explained Chen Yurista, the director of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany in Tel Aviv.
Therefore, they feel they were in a way coerced, he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).
His organization's call centre had received scores of telephone calls from confused applicants, who had to be told that the lump sums are reserved for voluntary work.
Albig said nobody's application had been turned down in the processing done so far, and said that if the box seemed to have been wrongly ticked, officials would check back with the applicant.
The fund is reserved for voluntary labour because a "humanitarian gesture" was needed from Berlin to a group that had missed out on past compensation despite being compelled to live and make ends meet in the ghettoes.
Albig said German and Israeli officials were studying how to reword the application form to make the question clearer.
"Obviously the fund qualification rules aren't meant to imply that people were living in the ghetto voluntarily. They were all there by compulsion and that in itself was a dreadful crime," Albig said.
Ghetto survivors have complained that only a tiny number were able to obtain regular German old-age pensions based on their employment history during the War. After an outcry and diplomatic pressure, the German government announced the fund in September.
Some 50,000 ghetto survivors around the world are believed to be eligible for the compensation. About half of them live in Israel.