By Toby Axelrod BERLIN, June 13 (JTA) – Former inmates of Nazi prison
camps in Tunisia may now apply for compensation from Germany.
Tuesday’s announcement followed negotiations between the Claims
Conference and Germany’s Finance Ministry. Germany committed some $280
million to this and several related causes.
“It is the first time that the suffering of women and children in
Tunisia has been recognized,” Gideon Taylor, the Claims Conference’s
executive vice president, told JTA in a phone interview after meeting
with Karl Diller, Germany’s deputy finance minister. “This is one reason
why we pursued the issue of North African camps so intensively.”
Those eligible may number only a few hundred, Taylor said, “but it’s
still significant.”
He added that the talks were generally positive, but “there were some
issues we didn’t reach agreement on.” He didn’t elaborate.
Former internees in Gabes, Marcia-Plage and Tniet-Agarev in Tunisia will
be eligible for payments of about $320 per month under the Article 2
Fund if they meet other German-mandated eligibility requirements.
Information on eligibility criteria is available at www.claimscon.org.
Additional compensation and social service funds will cover certain
Western Europeans who have not received compensation, as well as
increased funding for survivors’ home care, Taylor said.
The Claims Conference delegation was chaired by President Israel Singer
and included Taylor and Noach Flug, chairman of the Center of
Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel.
The conference meets annually with the German Finance Ministry. Diller
represented the past government under Gerhard Schroeder as well as the
current government of Angela Merkel.
Beginning in July 1942, the French Vichy government and its dependent
protectorate authorities in Tunisia interned Jews in camps there,
prompted by the Nazis. Following German occupation of Tunisia in
November 1942, the Nazis ran the camps.
Jews at the camps were fenced in and tightly guarded. Conditions and
medical care were poor and food was scarce.
The sum includes $26 million for social services for Jewish victims of
the Nazis, which the German government has agreed to provide through the
end of 2007. This is up from about $7 million in 2004 and $11 million in
2005.
In addition, Article 2 payments also will be applied to 4,000 new
claimants from certain Western European countries whose eligibility was
established after negotiations in 2003. This will result in an 8 percent
increase in the number of people receiving Article 2 payments, which
currently stands at 49,000.
However, “there are still groups of survivors from Western Europe on
whose behalf we will continue to negotiate,” Taylor said.
Article 2 has paid more than $1.8 billion to more than 68,000 Holocaust
survivors since it began in 1992, following Claims Conference
negotiations with the newly unified Germany. The Claims Conference
allocates the funds to 43 agencies assisting needy Jewish survivors in
17 countries.