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Germany increases payments to Holocaust survivors

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 10:14 p.m.

BERLIN — Sixty years after a landmark accord started German government compensation for victims of Nazi crimes, fund administrators and German officials say payments to Holocaust survivors are needed more than ever as they enter their final years.

Most Holocaust survivors experienced extreme trauma as children, suffered serious malnutrition, and lost almost all of their relatives — leaving them today with severe psychological and medical problems, and little or no family support network to help them cope.

In acknowledgement of that, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble signed off officially on Thursday on revisions to the original 1952 compensation treaty, increasing pensions for those living in Eastern Europe and broadening who is eligible for payments. Contributions to home care for survivors have been increased.

“Survivors are passing away on a daily basis, but the other side is that individual survivors are needing more help than ever,” the chairman of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Julius Berman, said before the ceremony.

“While a person came out of the camps very young and eventually developed a life of their own over the years, the impact of what happened at the beginning is now coming to the fore. Whether it's mentally or physically, they're sicker than their peers of the same age.”

Holocaust survivor Roman Kent said his experience is something that he will never be able to forget.

“Just witnessing the atrocities committed at the gate entering Auschwitz-Birkenau is more than enough to keep me awake at night until the end of time,” he said.

But Kent stressed that he does not hold current generations of Germans responsible for the past, saying they are actually today united in purpose with Holocaust survivors.

“Both of us do not want our past to be our children's future,” he said.

Germany has paid — primarily to Jewish survivors — about $89 billion in compensation overall for Nazi crimes since the agreement was signed in 1952.

In one change to the treaty that Germany agreed to this year, the country will provide compensation payments to a new category of Nazi victims: about 80,000 Jews who fled ahead of the advancing German army and mobile killing squads and eventually resettled in the former Soviet Union.

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