Germany extends pensions to more Holocaust survivors
BERLIN (AP) – The organization that handles claims on behalf of Jews who suffered under the Nazis said on Wednesday that Germany had agreed to extend compensation to Jewish survivors who endured the siege of Leningrad during the Second World War II and two other groups who had received no monthly payments. pensions from Germany.
The payments will go to around 6,500 survivors around the world, mostly in Israel, North America, the former Soviet Union and Western Europe, according to the New York Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also called the Claims Conference. .
The new funds are intended for around 4,500 Jews who survived the siege of Leningrad during World War II, around 800 who lived mainly in hiding in France during the Nazi reign of terror, and around 1,200 Jewish survivors from Romania.
All will begin to receive a monthly lifetime pension of 375 euros ($ 435) retroactively from July.
“It was a historic breakthrough,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, of the newly negotiated compensation agreement with the German government.
“For many of these people, it’s the difference between deciding whether to pay the monthly rent or the drugs or buy food,” Schneider said in a telephone interview from New York with The Associated Press.
One of the recipients of the new monthly pension is Nonna Revzina, an 85-year-old woman who now lives in a Jewish retirement home in Berlin.
The retired librarian still remembers the start of the Nazi siege of Leningrad in September 1941, when she was five years old. She still trembles when she remembers how she watched events unfold from the sixth floor of her apartment building, when the city was bombed by Nazi forces, supply lines were cut and hundreds of thousands of people were destroyed. dead.
During an interview with the AP in her one-room apartment, Revzina wiped away tears as she spoke of her father, who died of hunger and illness during the 1942 siege, and whose body her mother carried away on a sled. nearby where hundreds of corpses were piled up. She still does not know where her father was buried.
The siege of Leningrad, the Russian city now known as St. Petersburg, lasted almost 2.5 years until the Soviet army drove the Germans out on January 27, 1944.
Estimates of the death toll vary, but historians agree that over a million Leningrad residents died from starvation or from aerial and artillery bombardments during the siege.
“But on top of all this, the Germans took further action against the Jews,” Schneider said, as the Nazis launched leaflets in the city urging residents to identify the Jews and expel them or sending spies into the city. city to try to create riots and then to accuse the Jews of it.
“In the midst of this huge military battle, the Nazis were not just thinking about the Russians, not just about conquering Leningrad, but they were actually thinking about how to destroy the Jews and how to kill the Jews who lived in the city,” Schneider mentioned.
Revzina said she was well aware that “if the Nazis had conquered the city, all of us Jews would have been immediately murdered.”
The Russian woman immigrated to Germany in 1996, where her two adult children had moved a few years before her. In Berlin, Revzina helped raise her three grandchildren.
With the end of World War II 76 years ago now, Holocaust survivors are all elderly, and because many were deprived of adequate nutrition when they were young today, they suffer from many medical problems. In addition, many live in isolation after losing their families in the war and also have a psychological burden due to their persecution under the Nazis.
Many Holocaust survivors came out of the war with nothing and are still impoverished today.
Part of the Claims Conference’s annual negotiations includes working with Germany to increase the number of people eligible for compensation.
Some of the 6,500 survivors who will begin receiving pensions have already received one-time payments in the past, but that will not prevent them from receiving the new benefits, the Claims Conference said.
Since 1952, the German government has paid approximately $ 90 billion to individuals for the suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis. In 2021, the Claims Conference will distribute approximately $ 625 million in direct compensation to more than 260,000 survivors in 83 countries and will provide approximately $ 640 million in grants to more than 300 social service agencies around the world that provide services to victims. Holocaust survivors.
For Revzina, an additional 375 euros per month will allow her to enjoy the small pleasures of life that she could not afford.
“The pension is very useful for me,” she said. “I like going to cafes. I can do it more often now.
Her granddaughter Lana Solovej was delighted with the new pension.
“This is great news for her,” said the 23-year-old college student, who often helps her grandmother with daily household groceries. “The new pension will make a big difference for my grandmother.