Berlin hands an extra £163m to claims body

By Toby Axelrod, June 13, 2008

The Conference for Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, smarting over a critical article in the German press, has obtained an additional estimated £163 million over the next decade through its annual negotiations with the German government.

The successful talks in Berlin took place as the organisation fended off suggestions in Der Spiegel that it is less transparent than it should be. Last week’s article drew a pointed rebuttal from the Claims Conference, which accused the authors of including “numerous inaccuracies and distortions”.

“The Claims Conference goes to extraordinary lengths to be open and transparent, more so than virtually any other major Jewish organisation,” the response continued, prompted in part by a recent Tel Aviv District Court decision against them.

An Israeli Shoah survivor at a Jerusalem protest last year over state aid

The court agreed that the Claims Conference had not properly informed 1,365 survivors about their entitlement to reparations funds, and awarded them some £2.1 million, or £2,313 per person.

The article in Der Spiegel summarised accusations that the Claims Conference had avoided helping survivors and their heirs reclaim properties or the value of properties in former East Germany after reunification in 1990.

In fact, the organisation pressed Germany to extend deadlines for real-estate claims and movable property — including unclaimed property — according to the Claims Conference’s response to Der Spiegel. The Claims Conference itself had to apply by the deadline.

“Had the Claims Conference not taken this step, Jewish assets that remained unclaimed after the filing deadline would have remained with the owners at the time or reverted to the German government,” the statement read.

But life goes on for the Claims Conference, which secured additional funds for survivors in its latest talks, resulting in the inclusion of more people in pension programmes, and funding for homecare needs of Jewish victims of Nazism, according to statements from the Claims Conference and the German government.

Germany’s Federal Ministry of Finance announced that about £36 million had been committed for home care for needy and ageing Holocaust survivors. Retroactively to June 1, 2008, monthly payments to 65,800 survivors worldwide will be raised 8 per cent.

The organisation also secured an agreement to extend eligibility to some 2,000 additional survivors originally from western European countries.

The Claims Conference distributes the funds to agencies that provide such care to survivors around the world.

Last updated: 1:34pm, June 17 2008