Germany has agreed to expand its Nazi restitution program, in a deal that will see an additional $300 million paid out to victims of the Holocaust. The move comes as officials prepare to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the original reparations agreement, which takes place this September.
The deal was reached Monday in Washington between German representatives and the Claims Conference, a group that works to secure funds for Shoah survivors and their families. The $300 million will mostly go to survivors from the former Soviet Union, who were previously deemed ineligible to apply for restitution.
“This is the last group of people who have never received any compensation,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference. “For people who suffered during the time of the Shoah, recognition from Germany is vital. To be able to do that at this stage, 60 years after the first restitution agreement, for 80,000 people, is tremendous. For a survivor now in their old age to finally get acknowledgment from Germany is critically important.”
Stuart Eizenstat, former US Ambassador to the European Union who now works as the Claims Conference’s special negotiator, lauded Germany for “its willingness, so long after World War II, and in such challenging economic times today, to acknowledge its still ongoing historic responsibility.”
New applications will be made available starting November 1, with the money to be paid out by the Hardship Fund.
Other restitution regulations were also relaxed as part of Monday’s agreement. The German government will now equalize payment amounts across the board, whereas western survivors were previously receiving more compensation than survivors living in eastern countries. Likewise, survivors who went into hiding for at least six months will be eligible for compensation. The previous cutoff was at 12 months.