The following summary of German compensation programs, prepared by the United States Department of State, has been provided by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the U.S. Department of Justice:
German Compensation for National Socialist Crimes
Since the Second World War, Germany has enacted a number of laws providing compensation for people who suffered persecution at the hands of the Nazis. Over the course of its forty year-plus compensation program, these laws have resulted in billions of dollars being paid to hundreds of thousands of individuals.
Compensation for crimes committed by the Nazi regime began soon after the Second World War when the occupation powers, with the exception of the Soviet Union, enacted laws in their individual zones restoring property confiscated by the Nazis to the original owners. The first such law was American: Military Government Law 59, which went into effect in November, 1947.
The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) undertook its first compensation initiatives soon after its founding in 1949. Compensation was a high priority for Konrad Adenauer, the FRG's first Chancellor, who stated on September 27, 1951: "In our name, unspeakable crimes have been committed and demand compensation and restitution, both moral and material, for the persons and properties of the Jews who have been so seriously harmed…"
Konrad Adenauer began the process leading to the institution of a compensation and restitution program by inviting the State of Israel and a representative of world Jewry to enter into negotiations for the provision of material redress to Nazi crimes.
In response to his invitation, representatives of 23 Jewish organizations, which had a major interest in Jewish refugee problems on a worldwide or national scale, organized a representative body called the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, otherwise known as the "Claims Conference" or simply "CJMC". (The Claims Conference is a non-profit organization, headquartered in New York City, which continues to negotiate with Germany for compensation programs on behalf of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. Currently the Claims Conference also administers two active compensation programs: the Hardship Fund and Article 2 Fund, both of which are described below.)
Simultaneous and parallel negotiations occurred between the FRG and Israel. and the FRG and the Claims Conference. In September, 1952., two sets of agreements were signed at the Hague. One, between the FRG and Israel, required the FRG to provide goods and services to the newly born State of Israel. The second, between the FRG and the CJMC, required the FRG to (i) enact laws that would compensate Jewish victims of Nazi persecution directly, called Protocol No. 1, and (ii) provide funds for the relief, rehabilitation and resettlement of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, called Protocol No. 2. [return]
The German laws regulating the implementation of Protocol No. 1 are known by the acronym of their German title, "Bundesentschaedigungsgesetz", or BEG. In English, the formal name for the BEG is "Federal Law for the Compensation of the Victims of National Socialist Persecution." Programs derived from BEG laws compensate individuals persecuted for political, racial, religious. or ideological reasons, and provide compensation to those who suffered physical injury or loss of freedom, property, income, professional or financial advancement as a result of that persecution.
The German compensation efforts were codified in three laws of thc 1950's and 1960's. The first law, entitled the "Supplementary Law for the Compensation of the Victims of National Socialist Persecution," enacted October 1, 1953, implemented the initial German compensation program. It, in turn, was followed by the "Federal Law for the Compensation of the Victims of National Socialist Persecution" of June 1956, which substantially expanded the first law's scope in favor of those receiving compensation. The "Final Federal Compensation Law" enacted on September 14, 1965, then increased the number of persons eligible for compensation as well as the assistance offered. The final deadline for application under the BEG was December 31, 1969.
A large number of people have benefited from German compensation. Although German authorities did not document the exact number of people who applied for BEG and other compensation, more than four million claims were submitted between 1953 and 1987. It is important to note this is just a very general indication of the numbers of claimants as individuals submitted multiple claims under different categories, e.g. loss of property, loss of freedom, damage to health, etc. In terms of amounts of compensation paid, the German government provided a total of more than DM 72 billion for claims settled over this time. The German Government continues to pay money for pensions awarded under the BEG.
The deadlines for filing claims under the BEG laws of the 1950's and 1960's have expired. Thus, it is no longer possible to apply for compensation under these laws. [return]
During the period of détente, a large number of Jews were allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union and from behind the Iron Curtain. These people had not been eligible to apply under the BEG and found that, by the time of their emigration to the West, the filing period for the BEG had expired. In order to make compensation available to eligible members of this group, the FRG created the Hardship Fund which is administered by the Claims Conference.
HOW TO APPLY: Applications for compensation under the Hardship Fund are still being accepted. Compensation is available to Jewish victims of Nazi persecution who (i) have received no previous compensation and (ii) currently live under difficult financial conditions. Compensation under the Hardship Fund consists of a one time payment. of DM 5000.
Interested parties should request applications from:
15 East 26th Street, Room 906
New York, NY 10010
Unification forced the German government to evaluate how the country would continue, or change, the compensation efforts of its two predecessor states, East and West Germany. During the 1990 negotiations on German unification, the decision was taken to confirm, and partially extend, West Germany's existing provisions on compensation. This decision was formalized in Article 2 of the "Agreement on the Enactment and Interpretation of the Unification Treaty" of September 18, 1990 that unified Germany.
The Article 2 Fund was established and, like the Hardship Fund, is administered by the Claims Conference.
HOW TO APPLY: Applications for compensation under the Article 2 Fund are still being accepted. Jewish victims of Nazi persecution are eligible if they were:
- six months or longer in a concentration camp or eighteen months or longer in a ghetto or eighteen months or longer in hiding; and
- received no more than DM 10,000 in previous compensation; and
- currently live under difficult financial circumstances.
If eligible, compensation is a lifetime pension in the amount of DM 500 per month.
Interested parties should request application from:
Article 2 Fund
15 East. 26th Street, Room 906
New York, NY 10010
Those considering applying under the CJMC program should be aware the Conference has received many more applications than anticipated under the program, and has a substantial back-log of claims to be processed. [return]
In 1981, the Bundestag decided to make up to DM 100 million available for payments to non-Jewish victims of the Nazi regime who had previously been unable to receive compensation.
HOW TO APPLY: Applications are still being accepted for this fund, which is managed by the Regierungspraesident in Cologne (Koeln). Based on the German Federal Government's guidelines of August 26, 1981, one-time aid can be granted if the recipient is a non-Jewish victim of persecution who resides in a Western country, who suffered injury to health as a result of injustices perpetrated by the Nazis and who is in a state of particular (financial) need.
A further prerequisite is that the victim has received no or very little compensation for the injustices committed against them by the Nazis.
Interested parties should contact:
In early 1995, Germany offered to negotiate an agreement with the United States to compensate victims who were U.S. nationals at the time they suffered persecution, including the well-known claimant, Hugo Princz. The U.S. and Germany concluded the agreement in September, 1995. A first tranche of money was paid that month to a number of individuals known to qualify under the agreement.
Article 2(2) of the agreement provides for negotiation of an additional lump sum payment to Germany to compensate claimants who satisfy the Agreement's criteria, but who did not share in the first tranche. Negotiation of the additional compensation amount will take place two years after entry into force of the Agreement, assuming the United States identifies further eligible claimants.
HOW TO APPLY: To be eligible for compensation under the Agreement, claimants must satisfy several criteria. These require that the claimant:
- was a victim of Nazi measures of persecution (this generally requires incarceration in a concentration camp, and does not include persons detained as civilian internees);
- was a U.S. citizen at the time he or she suffered Nazi persecution:
- suffered loss of liberty or damage to body or health as a result of the persecution;
- was a direct victim of persecution (i.e., heirs are not covered); and
- has to date received no compensation from the FRG.
In January, 1996 Congress enacted legislation authorizing the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC), an agency with the Department of Justice, to receive and adjudicate claims for any additional eligible claimants under the Agreement. The Commission is conducting this program under deadlines which it will establish allowing adjudication of all claims by September, 1997. This will permit negotiation between the U.S. and Germany within the time frame contemplated in the Agreement.
Any U.S. citizen who believes he or she is eligible under the agreement's criteria should contact FCSC at:
600 E. St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20579
Tel: (202) 616-6975
For further information see the Department of Justice website on this topic: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/press/survivor.txt
If you believe you can qualify for this program, you can contact the appropriate German authorities directly.
If you were last employed as a salaried employee in your former homeland, please contact:
Bundesversicherungsanstalt fuer Angestellte
If you were last employed as a manual worker in your former homeland:
Freie und Hansesradt-Hamburg
Postfach 60 15 60
Alternatively, if you know the exact program for which you qualify, you may file an application for German benefits at your nearest U.S. Social Security office. The Social Security Administration will forward your application to the proper German agency for you. When they receive your application, the German authorities will send you the additional information and terms you will need to apply for the right to make the necessary voluntary contributions. [return]
The United States Government is very concerned with the question of securing compensation for suffering caused by the Nazi Oppression of the 1930's and 1940's. It has engaged the German government intensively over the years since the Second World war to press for the resolution of these claims as a whole.
It is important to note that the ability of our Government to pursue individual claims is determined under principles of international law. One of these principles limits the United States to pressing claims against foreign governments only on behalf of citizens who were U.S. nationals at the time that the claim or loss occurred and who continuously maintained their citizenship to the present. Other American citizens need to resolve their claims under the domestic procedures of the country of which they were a national at the time of their persecution.
Those Americans who were citizens of Germany at the time the persecution occurred must therefore resolve their claims under German domestic procedures. The State Department can provide the names of German attorneys who can assist in such cases. [return]
Germany considers forced labor cases to be reparation claims arising from the actions of the German military forces during the Second World War. Reparations claims are to be addressed at the state-to-state level, and again depend on the nationality of the individual at the time of persecution. Forced laborers were brought to Germany mainly from Poland and the former Soviet Union, both of which waived reparation claims in the early years after the war. However, in October 1991, Germany agreed with Poland to establish the German-Polish Reconciliation Foundation to provide financial assistance to Polish citizens who suffered mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. By agreement between the two governments, payments under this German-funded program were limited to current residents of Poland. We have, however, received conflicting reports of whether the Polish residency requirement still applies.
Forced laborers who suffered other forms of Nazi persecution may still file for compensation as described above. [return]
Between 1959 and 1964, the FRG worked out bilateral agreements with twelve western European nations. As a result of these agreements, the FRG provided a total of nearly DM900 million to those nations to enable them to compensate citizens not eligible under the BEG for damages incurred as victims of Nazi policies. This was just a portion, however, of the total compensation provided by these countries to their citizens. Under these lump sum agreements, the government receiving the payment is responsible for distribution of compensation to its nationals. Distribution is governed by the claims procedures of these nation's legal systems. The victims' survivors are sometimes eligible for compensation under these agreements.
This approach has been continued since unification. As noted above, in 1991 Germany agreed to pay DM 500 million to the "Foundation for German-Polish Reconciliation". The money will be used to compensate Polish citizens who had been victims of Nazi persecution. Germany has established a similar arrangement with three of the successor stares to the Soviet Union: Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. Under this agreement, Germany will contribute DM 1 billion to a "Foundation for Understanding and Reconciliation". The U.S.-German Nazi Persecution Agreement is the latest in this series of bilateral agreements.
Last updated 3/6/96 [return]