Kassel, Germany – Three Holocaust survivors won clearance Tuesday from a German social-welfare tribunal to claim old-age pensions on account of work they were forced to do by the Nazis. All three were confined in ghettos, the cordoned-off and starvation-ravaged zones where Jews were corralled by the Nazis in eastern European cities in the months and years before being sent to death camps during the Second World War.

Their claims for labour-related pensions had previously failed because they did not receive any wages from the German occupiers.

But the tribunal in the central city of Kassel ruled that receiving food and other gratuities for their work as electricians was also remuneration and qualified them for the pension scheme.

In a series of cases in recent years, elderly Holocaust survivors have won German pensions, which continue for life, unlike lump-sum compensation paid once only by Germany to former slave labourers.

The judges ruled that an employment relationship existed even when it was forced and when the sole remuneration was in goods, no matter how scanty. Employment also existed when a third party received that payment.

The Jewish claimants, two men and women, are now aged between 80 and 87. They were in ghettoes in Poland and Belarus and worked in the German army postal service, a leather factory and the state-owned Hermann Goering industrial group.

Their sole remuneration was meals at work, some food to take home or ration coupons, and occasional cash gratuities.

The Nazis extensively exploited forced labour because a large part of the German male workforce was doing military service.