E. Germany to Discuss Holocaust Award
East German Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere has asked to start negotiating compensation for Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust.
De Maiziere will meet today in New York with representatives of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims, set up in 1951 to negotiate reparations for the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis, said an official of the World Jewish Congress.
In a letter to WJC President Edgar Bronfman, de Maiziere said he would be “grateful if . . . you were to initiate soonest conversations” with East German government experts “in which a settlement of the Jewish claims would be agreed on within the framework of our possibilities.”
The East German compensation could reach into the billions of dollars, but might be limited by the government’s financial problems. East Germany, which deposed nearly 45 years of communist rule in the country’s first free elections last March, is in the process of reuniting with West Germany.
The economic union of the two countries is scheduled to be completed by July with West Germany expected to assume many of its financially strapped neighbor’s liabilities.
Under a 1952 agreement, West Germany has paid more than $40 billion in reparations to Israel, to Jewish groups and to individual claimants over the years.
The Luxembourg Agreement called for West Germany to pay two-thirds of the total compensation.
But East Germany’s communist leaders, citing the systematic persecution of communists by the Nazis, refused to recognize any responsibility or to pay the remaining third of the claims. After World War II, East Germany was dominated by the Soviet Union, which had lost at least 20 million lives to the Nazis.
One of the first acts of the new democratic East German parliament was to concede a share of the blame for the deeds of the Nazis.