German Jews demand pensions for ghetto survivors

German Jews demand pensions for ghetto survivors

Community leader claims that some 22,000 elderly have been waiting for years for retroactive payments

A Holocaust survivor with a number tattooed on his forearm puts on Tefillin (photo credit: Flash90)
A Holocaust survivor with a number tattooed on his forearm puts on Tefillin (photo credit: Flash90)

BERLIN (JTA) — Germany’s main Jewish body is calling on the German government and parliament to step in on behalf of survivors of World War II ghettos who have not yet received a German pension for their work.

Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement last Friday that political leaders should not allow the “wrong and fatal impression” that they are playing with time, waiting for survivors to die.

Noting that the average age of the survivors is 85, Graumann said that “every day the circle of possible recipients is growing ever smaller. So now is not the time for petty arithmetic, but rather for speedy action.”

Germany’s Federal Social Court had granted the survivor pension entitlement back in 2009 after the Bundestag unanimously approved pension payments for former ghetto workers in 2002, retroactive to 1997. But critics say the German Pension Insurance Organization reportedly awarded pensions to only a small fraction of those who qualified.

One hurdle is that German social law only allows for four years of retroactive payments. Three German parties — the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party — have requested formally that the government make up the difference for the survivors.

According to the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, State Secretary Ralf Brauksiepe, of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party, said on Feb. 27 that the federal government had not yet made a decision as to whether and how back payments to ghetto workers could be made for those years in which red tape prevented them from receiving any pensions for their labor. There was also no indication of a timetable, the report noted.

“For years, about 22,000 individuals — by now quite elderly — have been waiting for the retroactive payment of their pension,” Graumann said in his statement.

Payments would also be a form of recognition of their endless suffering during the Nazi period — a moral duty on Germany’s part, he said.

“Every single day they wait is a day too many,” Graumann said.

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