The German Parliament unanimously approved a measure extending pension payments for over 40,000 Holocaust survivors Thursday, allowing them retroactive benefits from as far back as 1997.
The Jewish Claims Conference, which helped negotiate the deal with the government, praised the deal as a “long-delayed measure of justice” to former laborers in German ghettos.
According to the Conference, the survivors are entitled to German Social Security for Work in Ghettos, for laboring "voluntarily" and for having received some form of remuneration during their time in Nazi-era ghettos.
Until the passage of this amendment, most recipients have only been able to receive payments dating back four years prior to the approval of their claims.
“This amendment of the existing legislation brings a long-delayed measure of justice to elderly survivors of ghettos who have been waiting for seven decades for their labor to be recognized by Germany,” said Greg Schneider, Claims Conference executive vice president.
“These ‘ghetto pensions’ are of great interest to survivors who may be in great need of the funds and for whom they can bring additional comfort and support in their final years," added Schneider.
Dubbed "Ghetto Pensions," the payments, which came into effect as of 1997, were initially kept from survivors by local German authorities, who made overly strict interpretations of the criteria. Approximately 61,000 out of 70,000 claims have been denied until now, activists said.
The amendment was introduced to Parliament in April 2014 by Andrea Nahles, Federal Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, who has promised payments would be made "swiftly and efficiently."