German Jewish leader urges cancellation of pension payments to former SS members
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German Jewish leader urges cancellation of pension payments to former SS members

Josef Schuster says funds to former Nazi employees wounded in service and living abroad are ‘intolerable’

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, speaking at the Westend synagogue, in Frankfurt, Germany, September 26, 2016. (Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images via JTA)
Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, speaking at the Westend synagogue, in Frankfurt, Germany, September 26, 2016. (Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images via JTA)

BERLIN, Germany (JTA) — The head of Germany’s Jewish umbrella organization is calling on Germany to review – and possibly cancel – pension payments to former SS members who were injured during World War II, and who are living abroad.

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the payments of pensions to people who might have committed war crimes was “intolerable.”

Schuster spoke Monday with the newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, which reported that more than 2,000 former SS soldiers outside Germany receive state pensions averaging about $370 a month, plus special health care allowances. Some recipients are non-German collaborators, who were injured while serving with the Nazi forces. They reportedly had been promised pensions by the Nazi authorities.

The benefits come through the Federal Pension Act, which was passed in 1950 to support war victims, whether civilians or veterans of the Wehrmacht or Waffen-SS.

Soldiers of the Waffen-SS Wiking Division advancing into the Soviet Union in 1941 during Nazi Germany’s Operation Barbarossa. (Wikipedia/Bundesarchiv/Hummel/CC BY-SA)

Germany is already checking on the cases of four retirees living in the Netherlands. According to German law, membership in the SS alone is not a reason for denying a pension or compensation claim. The individual must be found to have participated in crimes against humanity or the rule of law, the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung reported.

Germany’s Ministry of Labor indicated that there are 18 recipients of such pensions in Belgium and 49 in Switzerland. The ministry said none of the recipients in Belgium are former SS members, but a historian and three members of the Belgian parliament demanded three years ago that Germany reveal the names of the pension recipients.

A ministry spokesperson told the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung that the payments are not made for service in the Wehrmacht or Waffen-SS per se, but rather as compensation for injuries received while serving.

Meanwhile, the number of recipients is dwindling; reportedly, 33 died in the past month.

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