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Central/Eastern Europe: Germany Considers Compensation For Holocaust Survivors

Munich, 22 August 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The German government has agreed with an international Jewish organization to begin a speedy consideration of proposals for offering compensation to Holocaust survivors living in central and eastern Europe.

A government spokesman said in Bonn yesterday it hoped to reach decisions within three months.

"We are well aware that quick decisions are required because of the age of those involved," he said. He declined to say what sort of compensation is being considered but said money was not the only possibility.

The agreement follows talks in Bonn this week with six representatives of the Jewish Claims Conference (JCC), whose chief negotiator is the general secretary of the American-based Jewish World Conference, Israel Singer.

Singer said Bonn has already provided various forms of compensations to Jewish victims of the Nazis in many parts of the world. However Jews living in eastern Europe had largely been excluded although some money had been paid to Holocaust survivors living in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Poland. Singer said he was optimistic after this week's negotiations that "a human problem will be solved in a human manner."

Singer also declined to say what forms of compensation are being considered.

The chief government negotiator, Friedrich Bohl, who is in charge of the personal office of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, said the government was unlikely to consider such ideas as a monthly pension for individuals.

"However, there are other solutions for helping these victims," he said.

As a first step, two commissions will be created with representatives of both the JCC and the German government. The first will attempt to determine how many Jewish victims of the Nazis are still living in Central and Eastern Europe and the sort of help then need. A government spokesman said the number was estimated at around 20,000 but there were no specific figures.

The second commission will consider specific compensation proposals which the JCC made to the German government last year. A spokesman said the main demand is for a broader use of the so-called Article-2 Funds for compensating Jewish victims of the Nazis. The present regulations allow the funds to be used for compensating central and east Europeans who are now living in the west.

The German opposition parties, the Socialists and the Greens, have previously suggested that the funds should also be used for helping those still living in Eastern Europe.

The JCC negotiator, Israel Singer, said his side was also seeking changes in the criteria for qualifying for help from the Article-2 funds. At present these include at least six months detention in a concentration camp or 18 months in a ghetto. Another criteria is severe damage to the health of an individual. Singer said the JCC was also seeking compensation for those who were pressed into forced labor.