By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER
BERLIN (AP) — The organization that handles claims on behalf of Jews who suffered under the Nazis said Thursday that Germany has agreed to extend another $1.4 billion (1.29 billion euros) overall for Holocaust survivors around the globe for the coming year.
The compensation was negotiated with Germany’s finance ministry and includes $888.9 million to provide home care and supportive services for frail and vulnerable Holocaust survivors.
Additionally, increases of $175 million to symbolic payments of the Hardship Fund Supplemental program have been achieved, impacting more than 128,000 Holocaust survivors globally, according to the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also referred to as the Claims Conference.
“Every year these negotiations become more and more critical as this last generation of Holocaust survivors age and their needs increase,” said Greg Schneider, the Claims Conference’s executive vice president.
“Being able to ensure direct payments to survivors in addition to the expansions to the social welfare services is essential in making sure every Holocaust survivor is taken care of for as long as it is required, addressing each individual need,” Schneider added.
The Hardship Fund Supplemental payment was originally established to be a one-time payment, negotiated during the COVID-19 lockdowns and eventually resulted in three supplemental payments for eligible Holocaust survivors. This year, Germany again agreed to extend the hardship payment, which was set to end in December 2023, through 2027.
The amount for each of the additional years was set at approximately $1,370 per person for 2024, $1,425 for 2025, $1,480 for 2026 and $1,534 for 2027.
The survivors receiving these payments largely are Russian Jews who weren’t in camps or ghettos, and aren’t eligible for pension programs, the Claims Conference said.
As children they fled the so-called Einsatzgruppen — Nazi mobile killing units charged with murdering entire Jewish communities. More than 1 million Jews were killed by these units, which operated largely by shooting hundreds and thousands of Jews at a time and burying them in mass pits.
“For those who were able to flee and survive — they are some of the poorest in the survivor community; the loss of time, family, property and life cannot be made whole,” the group said.
“By expanding payments to these survivors, the German government is acknowledging that this suffering is still being felt deeply, both emotionally and financially,” the group said in a statement. “While symbolic, these payments provide financial relief for many aging Jewish Holocaust survivors living around the world.”
With the end of World War II now nearly eight decades ago, all living Holocaust survivors are elderly, and many suffer from numerous medical issues because they were deprived of proper nutrition when they were young.
As the number of survivors dwindles, the Claims Conference also negotiated continuing funding for Holocaust education, which has been extended for two more years and increased each year by $3.3 million. The newly negotiated funding amounts are approximately $41.6 million for 2026 and $45 million for 2027.
Since 1952, the German government has paid more than $90 billion to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis.
In 2023, the Claims Conference projects it will distribute hundreds of millions in compensation to more than 200,000 survivors in 83 countries and allocated more than $750 million in grants to more than 300 social service agencies worldwide that provide vital services for Holocaust survivors, such as home care, food and medicine.
“It has been nearly 80 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, and the need to negotiate for survivor care and compensation is more urgent than ever,” said Stuart Eizenstat, the special negotiator for the Claims Conference negotiations delegation.
“Every negotiation is a near-last opportunity to ensure survivors of the Holocaust are receiving some measure of justice and a chance at the dignity that was taken from them in their youth. It will never be enough until the last survivor has taken their last breath,” he added.