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Holocaust survivor heirs now eligible for pensions

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By Celia Weintrob

The child of Holocaust survivors, Miriam Dubner (not her real name) recently examined the brown and crumbling affidavits of DP camp inmates that had served as ID for her mother and authentication that she had been in a concentration camp. They had been used to apply with the Claims Conference to get reparation money that was available when her mother was alive. Her father, a prisoner of war from the Polish army, had never been eligible.

But due to a change in German law that took place in September 2013, survivors and their heirs can now obtain pensions for forced labor endured during World War II.

Dr. Wallace Greene, a noted Holocaust activist and educator, has joined with Rabbi Asher Vaknin of Beit Ahava VeTorah and law firm Eliahu Weber to assist survivors and their families.

Depending on where they worked, and for how long, survivors may receive between 40,000 and 120,00 Euros. Each case is filed individually; there are no class action lawsuits involved with this procedure.

Dr. Greene, who taught Holocaust courses at Upsala College, has debunked Holocaust deniers through academic publication, and has been a distinguished member of the Holocaust Commemoration Committee of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey for over two decades. He is a consultant to The International March of The Living as well as Beit Ahava VeTorah.

More than 50 years after the German Compensation Act was enacted, the Ghetto Workers Compensation Law (ZRBG) now recognizes the work survivors conducted for the Germans while they were at forced labor in the ghettos, factories and labor camps, and they are eligible for pensions.

A survivor who did not filed an application for a German pension in the past but who meets the requirements should apply as soon as possible. If a survivor did file an application in the past and was rejected according to the previous interpretation of the law, they can explore the case and possibly get a new decision. If a benefit has already been claimed or paid according to the ordinance of recognition, the claim for a pension under the ZRBG does not conflict with that.

 

By law, victims of national socialist persecution can receive a payment in recognition of labor in a ghetto which did not constitute forced labor. The claim according to the ordinance of recognition, does not replace the pension application under the ZRBG. The ZRBG defines the conditions for making pensions payable for the Holocaust survivors who labored in a ghetto that was situated in a territory occupied by the Germans or under Nazi influence.

A survivor who wishes to claim compensation needs to prove that he or she was forced to live in a ghetto, in a territory which was occupied by the German Reich or under Nazi influence. The stay in a concentration camp or work camp is not covered by the ZRBG but these periods can be accounted for as substitute periods after reaching the age of 14.

The survivor will also have to claim that he had performed labor of his own will, or any kind of labor for which he received remuneration. This remuneration may be any kind of compensation paid for the work, such money, food, etc.

Since an agreement was never signed between Germany and the United States, most survivors who are U.S. citizens never received any compensation. That is why U.S. citizens will now be entitled to receive an increased payment of five percent per year as of their 65th year (the relevant year in Germany for an old age pension).

Beit Ahava VeTorah’s legal team, both in the U.S. and in Germany, will strive to get the maximum award and use their experience and expertise to get survivors their well-deserved compensation as soon as possible.

Heirs who are entitled to inherit a survivor who passed away after June 2002 (the date the law was entered into force), and that survivor received an old age pension, will receive a retroactive payment from the time the pension should have been paid (time when old age pension was applied for/ or 7/18/1997 – the latest) until the time that the survivor had perished.

Dubner’s experience with Beit Ahava VeTorah led to the pleasant and surprising knowledge that she is eligible to receive the pension that her mother earned.

“The application is a bit long, but Dr. Greene was extremely knowledgeable and easy to work with,” she said.

To fill out the application, click here