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21 Tammuz 5768 - July 24, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Claims Committee Obtains Reparations for Jewish Survivors of Siege of Leningrad

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Following years of negotiations with the German government the Claims Committee reached an agreement to pay one-time reparations to Jewish survivors of the Nazi siege of Leningrad now living in Western countries. During the course of the annual negotiations, the German government recognized Leningrad siege victims' eligibility for reparations from the Claims Committee Assistance Fund on condition that they meet the Fund's other criteria. Thanks to the agreement, survivors who spent any amount of time in Leningrad between September 1941 and January 1944 or fled the city during this period will receive a one-time payment of 2,556 euro (NIS 14,000 or $4,000). According to estimates 6,000 Jews who managed to survive the 900-day siege and currently reside in Western countries will be eligible for this payment.

Had the Germans captured the city they would have annihilated all of the 300,000 Jews living in Leningrad and the surrounding area, chas vesholom. As German forces advanced toward Leningrad in 1941 the Jewish residents tried to move as close to the city center as possible. Jews who were unable to flee the Nazis remained in areas later captured, where they were tortured and shot. The largest slaughter took place in Pushkin, a suburb of Leningrad, where 800 Jews were taken to the cellars of the Ekaterininsky Palace and shot in groups in the nearby park, Hy"d. While planning the siege Hitler described Leningrad as the center of the Jewish-Bolshevik intellectual elite.

The Germans surrounded the city in September 1941. During the siege they cut the water and electricity lines and residents lived in conditions of constant air raids and artillery fire. The Nazis disseminated antisemitic flyers claiming the Jews were responsible for the residents' suffering and that Germany would liberate the country from the control of the Bolsheviks and the Jews. One-third of the city's three million inhabitants starved or froze to death, but their brave stand caused a turning point in the war, eventually leading to the Germans' defeat.

The Assistance Fund was started in 1980 following five years of negotiations between the Claims Committee and the German government. The Fund provided a one-time payment to Jewish survivors from Soviet-bloc countries who emigrated to the West after 1969, the last year reparations claims could be filed according to West German law. These reparations laws, which were legislated between 1953 and 1965, did not include Nazi victims who lived in Eastern-bloc countries and the Soviet Union.

West Germany set up a fund on condition that the Claims Committee, and not the government itself, would run the implementation and distribution of reparations, in accordance with the guidelines of the German government. Based on the size of the fund at the time it was set up, it was estimated that 80,000 Holocaust victims would be able to benefit.

The collapse of communism and the subsequent emigration of Jews from Soviet-bloc countries significantly increased the number of eligible survivors. Reparations requests from 320,000 Jewish survivors have been approved (187,000 from Israel) and over $850 million has been paid. The Claims Committee continues to approve over 5,000 applications annually.


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