Germany Says No to More WWII Reparations
Thursday, November 22, 2007; 5:45 PM
JERUSALEM -- Israeli Holocaust survivors asked Germany's finance minister Thursday to improve a reparations arrangement set up a half-century ago, but he said no additional money would be paid.
Survivors reasoned the original 1952 accord with Israel did not account for their unexpected longevity or apply to tens of thousands of Holocaust victims who came to Israel following the Soviet Union's collapse.
Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck rejected the appeal, said Zeev Factor, a Holocaust survivor who took part in the meeting.
"He said Germany reached an agreement with Israel on this matter ... and isn't willing to touch the agreement," Factor said.
Steinbrueck said that if German officials concluded problems could be resolved within the framework of the 1952 agreement, then "they will be willing to discuss it," Factor said.
The German Embassy did not respond to a request for comment on the meeting.
Germany's government has said it would be willing to discuss requests for additional payments if Israel submits a formal petition, but that so far no such request had been made.
Israeli Finance Minister Roni Bar-On met with Steinbrueck on Thursday but did not submit a formal request for additional aid, a spokeswoman for the Israeli official said.
Six million Jews were killed in the Nazi Holocaust of World War II, and hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors emigrated to Israel after its creation in 1948.
Germany has paid an estimated $25 billion in reparations to Israeli Holocaust survivors, who Factor said numbered 350,000 to 400,000 at their peak. Germany also provided more than $700 million in goods and services to the Israeli government.
Today, some 250,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel. They are living longer than was foreseen under the reparation agreement with Germany, with added expenses and high medical costs, survivor leaders say.
In addition, about a third of the survivors here are not covered by the agreement, because they escaped Nazi rule by fleeing to the former Soviet Union.
Some Israelis have argued that the country should be able to take care of its own elderly survivors without going to Germany for more money.
After a storm of protest by Holocaust survivors who charged the government with abandoning them, the state agreed earlier this year to give the 160,000 Israelis who survived Nazi ghettos and concentration camps a monthly stipend of nearly $300, in addition to tax discounts and other breaks.
It also approved monthly payments ranging from $40 to $125 for 80,000 survivors who came to Israel from the former Soviet Union.