Holocaust Compensation History

During the Second World War Shalom Adler Rudel developed some ideas regarding compensation for Jewish property in Germany. Adler wrote a paper in which he proposed to collect information on property of Jews in Germany and occupied countries to receive financial compensation in the future. The document did not receive much support. Even during the Holocaust there were some similar ideas put forth. At that time the persecution of Jews and the confiscation of property in Germany and the occupied countries was known, but the vast dimensions of the Holocaust were not yet fully known.

In 1945, after the surrender of Germany, Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, filed a claim in the name of the Jewish people for compensation. The suit alleges that Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust, and left without owners during the Nazi extermination belongs to the Jewish people he represents. It was rejected.

On April 1951 Israeli representatives met in France with the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The meeting was not official and still confidential. During the meeting the Chancellor expressed his willingness to compensate the Jewish people and to make an announcement that Germany undertakes the responsibility for Nazi crimes against the Jewish people. This statement was intended to prepare the public for the opening of official and formal contacts with West Germany.

A few months later, on September 1951 the official statement was given by Adenauer on the Bundestag podium. The message was unanimously approved by the Bundestag and allowed the opening of formal negotiations.

About a month later, Nahum Goldman, chairman of the Jewish Agency and president of the World Jewish Congress, called a meeting in New York attended by representatives of 23 Jewish organizations. The participants made it clear that these talks should be limited to material claims. The conference board they chose included groups that took part in the initial meeting.

After months of negotiations, the Claims Conference and Germany signed an agreement that called for the enactment of laws that would compensate Nazi victims directly and Pay the State of Israel 3 billion German marks and 450 million marks to the association of Jewish organizations to represent Jewish Material Claims against Germany. The amount of reparations was extended to the State of Israel in order to settle and rehabilitate Jewish refugees in Israel.

During the intervening years, the Claims Conference continued to negotiate with the German government for commitments they made in the initial agreement, making sure all the survivors would be able to claim their compensation.

With over 25 agreements obtained by the Claims Conference, almost all the survivors are entitled to compensation.

They will never be able to get the justice they deserve, but compensation can facilitate, assist and strengthen the survivors.