Germany has agreed to one-time payments for survivors, primarily Jews, who were evacuated from Nazi Germany as children, many of whom never saw their parents again, the organization that negotiates compensation with the German government said yesterday.
The New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany — which carries out continuous negotiations with Germany to expand the number of people eligible for compensation — said that the German government had agreed to payments of 2,500 euros (US$2,800) to those still alive from among the 10,000 people who fled on the so-called “Kindertransport.”
This year is the 80th anniversary of beginning of the transport of the children from Nazi Germany to Britain and elsewhere in Europe.
About 1,000 survivors are thought to be alive today, with about half living in Britain, and the payment is seen as a “symbolic recognition of their suffering,” Claims Conference negotiator Greg Schneider said.
“In almost all the cases, the parents who remained were killed in concentration camps in the Holocaust and they have tremendous psychological issues,” Schneider told reporters.
Following the Nazis’ anti-Jewish pogrom in November 1938 — known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass — the British government agreed to allow an unspecified number of Jewish children as refugees from Nazi Germany or territories it had annexed.
Jewish groups inside Nazi Germany planned the transports and the first arrived in Harwich, England, on Dec. 2, 1938, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The final such transport from Germany left on Sept. 1, 1939 — the day that World War II broke out with the Nazi invasion of Poland — and the final transport from continental Europe left the Netherlands on May 14, 1940, the same day that Dutch forces surrendered.
In all, about 10,000 children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland were taken to Britain, about 7,500 of whom were Jewish, the museum said.
About half were placed with foster families, while the others stayed in hostels, schools or farms.
In addition to those who remained in Britain, many resettled in the US, Israel, Canada, Australia or elsewhere, Schneider said.
Today, survivors are at least in their 80s and most continue to look back on their escape as the defining moment of their lives as they were put alone onto trains into the unknown, saying goodbye to parents and siblings, often for the last time, Schneider said.
“This money is acknowledgement that this was a traumatic, horrible thing that happened to them,” he said.
Some survivors already received small payments in the 1950s, but that will not bar them from receiving the new benefit, the Claims Conference said.
Since 1952, the German government has paid more than US$80 billion to people for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis.
Next year, the Claims Conference is to distribute approximately US$350 million in direct compensation to more than 60,000 survivors in 83 countries, the organization said.
In addition, it will provide about US$550 million in grants to social service agencies that provide home care, food, medicine and other services for Holocaust survivors.
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