Israel wants reparations with Germany reopened
9 November 2007, Jerusalem/Berlin (dpa) - Israel wants to reopen its 1952 agreement with Germany granting reparations for Holocaust survivors, an Israeli minister said in remarks published Friday. The Luxembourg Agreement did not take into account many issues relating to Holocaust survivors and should therefore be reopened, Minister for Pensioner Affairs Rafi Eitan told the Ha'aretz daily. These include the high cost of the last stage of life in the modern era, and a life expectancy at least 10 years longe
9 November 2007
Jerusalem/Berlin (dpa) - Israel wants to reopen its 1952 agreement with Germany granting reparations for Holocaust survivors, an Israeli minister said in remarks published Friday.
The Luxembourg Agreement did not take into account many issues relating to Holocaust survivors and should therefore be reopened, Minister for Pensioner Affairs Rafi Eitan told the Ha'aretz daily.
These include the high cost of the last stage of life in the modern era, and a life expectancy at least 10 years longer compared to that of the 1950s, he said.
Eitan, in charge of the talks with Germany on reparations for Holocaust survivors and retrieving Jewish property, intends to discuss the matter with German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck when he visits Israel later this month.
A spokesman for Steinbrueck said in Berlin that no meeting with Eitan was planned.
"The German Finance Minister is not meeting Mr Eitan when he is in Israel and does not intend to conduct talks of this nature," spokesman Torsten Albig said.
The Luxembourg Agreement stipulated that Germany would give Israel 833 million dollars, and Israel would look after the survivors, who would not be permitted to sue Germany directly.
But in the 50 years between 1954 and 2004, the Israeli government had spent some 3.5 billion dollars on the survivors, more than four times the sum transferred by Germany, Eitan said.
He was citing a report by Israel's state comptroller released in August.
"We see Germany as responsible for the Holocaust survivors," Eitan said. "The agreements with them had many holes."
The Luxembourg Agreement also did not take into account the arrival of tens of thousands of Holocaust refugees to Israel from the former Soviet Union, he said.
"That changed the entire picture, even if the Germans aren't interested."
The Israeli government has come under fierce criticism for what some call its failure to take moral responsibility for the well-being of Holocaust survivors and refugees.
Earlier this autumn, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that for the first time in its history, the Israeli government would pay monthly allowances from its own budget to Holocaust survivors and refugees, many of whom are said to live under the poverty line.
After lengthy negotiations with Holocaust survivor representatives, Olmert agreed on a budget of 2 billion Israeli shekels (500 million dollars) over the next three years for the allowances.
The Israeli government undertook to finance the plan, but wants Germany to contribute.
Olmert and other ministers said in closed forums that Israel ought to ask Germany to help cover the increased payments, Ha'aretz said. But this is the first time a minister has said so publicly.
Israel's Foreign Ministry however is concerned that Eitan's demands might damage the delicate relations between Israel and Germany.
"I never denied that my approach is problematic," Eitan responded, but added, "I'm acting for the good of Holocaust survivors."
A senior German Foreign Ministry source told Ha'aretz that Germany would accept some of the Israeli demands, and that Chancellor Angela Merkel had instructed officials to handle the matter "sympathetically."
However, the German treasury wants to avoid setting a precedent by reopening the reparations agreement.
Many Holocaust survivors and refugees in Israel are said to live under the poverty line, either because as Jews who survived the Holocaust in countries not under Nazi occupation they were not eligible for repatriation, because they have no proper pensions, or because they refused or failed to apply for repatriation.
Subject: German news