Germany for the first time has agreed to compensate thousands of Jews who fled the Nazi army in the Soviet Union, the Claims Conference announced Sunday.
One-time Hardship Fund payments as of January 1 will be paid out to Jewish victims who fled between June 22, 1941 and January 27, 1944 from areas of the Soviet Union that were generally up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the most easterly advance of the German army but were not later occupied by the Nazis.
The Hardship Fun was established in 1980 after five years of Claims Conference negotiation and provides a one-time payment of approximately $3,300 to certain Jewish victims of Nazism, including many from former Soviet bloc countries who emigrated to the West after 1969, which was the application deadline for the West German Indemnification Laws (BEG).
Eligible victims will also include those who fled from Leningrad after June 22, 1941 but before the siege of that city commenced in September 1941, the Claims Conference added.
This agreement will lead to payments to Jewish victims of Nazism from the former Soviet Union now living in Israel, the United States, Germany and other Western countries. These payments are not currently available to Nazi victims living in former Soviet bloc countries.
“Germany understands the importance of acknowledging the suffering of Jews throughout Europe during the Shoah, who feared for their lives if they were even in the path of the advancing Nazi army,” said Stuart Eizenstat, Claims Conference Special Negotiator.”
In the Soviet Union, coming under Nazi occupation was a virtual death sentence for Jews. Those who fled, expecting the German army to overtake their hometowns, will now be recognized as victims of Nazi persecution by the German government, said Roman Kent, Claims Conference Treasurer and a member of the negotiating delegation.
Claims Conference Chairman Julius Berman added, “Jews who fled ahead of the advancing Nazis in order not to be murdered were nevertheless victimized beyond imagination. This payment can never bring back what was lost, but it is an acknowledgement of what they endured during the war.”
The Nazi occupation in the Soviet Union resulted in the murders of more than 1 million Jews and sometimes eradicated entire Jewish communities. Those who were not shot in cold blood were gassed in vans.
The Claims Conference has long contended that Jews from areas such as Moscow that were in the path of the advancing German military suffered great deprivation by having to flee and should be recognized as victims of Nazi persecution.
“They had every reason to believe that they would suffer the same fate as Jews who lived in communities overtaken by the Nazis,” the Claims Conference explained.