German ghetto compensation fund stirs confusion in Israel

2nd January 2008, Comments 0 comments

A new German fund compensating Jews who worked in ghettos under Nazi occupation during World War II has stirred confusion in Israel.

2 January 2008

Tel Aviv (dpa) - A new German fund compensating Jews who worked in ghettos under Nazi occupation during World War II has stirred confusion in Israel.

The German government announced the fund in September, saying it will issue one-time payments of 2,000 euros to ghetto survivors who carried out uncoerced work during the Holocaust.

Some 50,000 ghetto survivors around the world are believed to be eligible for the compensation, about half of whom live in Israel.

The fund is not meant for ghetto survivors who carried out forced labour, because they have already been compensated under other, older acts.

It is also meant mainly for Holocaust survivors who do not receive pensions or social security under other laws for the work they did.

But Holocaust survivor organizations in Israel say that many eligible Israelis misunderstood the application form and risk having their request for compensation turned down, because they filled out the form incorrectly by ticking the box reading "I was forced to do the work."

Many ghetto survivors feel 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 DPA Wednesday, adding his organization's call centre received scores of telephone calls by confused applicants.

He gave as an example the scene from the Holocaust movie The Pianist, where the hero looks for a job for his parents to enable them to survive in the ghetto a little longer.

He said the form should be rephrased or else an explanation should be attached to the troublesome clause.

"My phone operators told me there is a problem," said Yurista. "A lot of people called and told us" they marked the box saying they were forced to do the work.

"What I am worried about is that some people that would have been eligible if they had understood correctly, misunderstood."

The biggest-selling Israeli Yediot Ahronot daily spoke Wednesday of a "bureaucratic blunder."

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