Amid the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, the German government is expanding its compensation for Holocaust survivors around the world to $653 million.
Payments from this sum will be made to survivors over the next two years.
Jewish Family Services director Ruth Steinberg, whose work entails connecting Holocaust survivors living in Santa Barbara to local services and reparation payments from the German government, called this expansion “a step in the right direction” toward ensuring survivors are taken care of in their later years.
“I think it’s a positive step. I think there’s an awareness that survivors are definitely aging,” Ms. Steinberg stated.
In order to get survivors reparations and payments, Ms. Steinberg goes through the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Also known as the Claims Conference, the organization funds in-home care for more than 83,000 Holocaust survivors around the world to make their remaining days as pleasant as possible.
The Claims Conference announced Wednesday on its website that the German government’s increased compensation and social welfare for Holocaust survivors is approximately $36 million more than last year’s. Under negotiations between the Claims Conference and the German government, victims eligible for the funds will get two supplemental payments of $1,400 over the next two years.
According to the Claims Conference website, the payments will become effective as of Dec. 1.
Germany’s government has agreed to expand the categories of Holocaust survivors to include those who lived in “open ghettos” in Bulgaria and Romania. Ms. Steinberg told the News-Press that in her experience, getting Holocaust survivors the benefits that they need can be difficult because different compensations are for specific types of survivors.
These include people who were in concentration camps, individuals who were on the run or hiding from the Nazis, or children who were forced to leave Germany on the Kindertransport.
Recalling a time when she managed to get a local Holocaust survivor a large sum of money for dental work he needed done, Ms. Steinberg said another difficulty in securing compensations is the vast amount of required paperwork. However, she said the Claims Conference told her that the German government’s expanded benefits will consist of automatic payments to those who qualify for Hardship payments and increased funding for social welfare services that survivors can access through local agencies. Thus, little paperwork will be required.
Because many survivors who were adults during the Holocaust have passed away, and those who were children are now in their 80s, Ms. Steinberg stated that now is the perfect time for Germany to expand the survivor categories and increase the reparation payments.
“Time is running out for these survivors, so it behooves Germany to be doing this now,” she said.
On top of that, elderly Holocaust survivors are in the demographic particularly impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.
“Everyone is facing this challenge and when you are an aging Holocaust survivor, isolated in many cases, it makes your situation all the worse,” Ms. Steinberg remarked.