International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Increased Reparations to Holocaust Survivors

After negotiations between the German government and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, Germany has decided to increase reparation payments to Holocaust survivors and will also open up reparation eligibility to a greater number of people. The Conference has been working for decades “to achieve recognition of Holocaust survivors who have remained in the countries of the former Soviet Union.” The eligibility of reparations will be opened up to individuals who were persecuted by Nazis in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, because many of them still have not received it. About 80,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union who still live in Eastern Europe and have never gotten any compensation from Germany will receive reparations. $200 million will be evenly distributed against tens of thousands of elderly survivors. Additionally, there will be increased allocations for home care for Holocaust survivors. While this is a great breakthrough for survivors who have been waiting years for compensation, this article brings up an issue I have with reparations that was addressed by Joanna. She stated, “Collective reparations don’t address the individual pain felt by the affected persons,” and they “don’t seem to distinguish among the very different abuses perpetrated against individuals.” These are my sentiments exactly. Though the increase in reparations to the Holocaust is undoubtedly an appreciable move, it seems almost too easy to just equalize the compensation to survivors.

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2 responses to “Increased Reparations to Holocaust Survivors

  1. awatt14 November 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    This post highlights one of the most difficult issues of reparation, just compensation. Depending on how one views the purpose of reparations will determine what can qualify as just compensation and how this compensation should be determined. If one simply takes reparations as an act of atonement by a government, then to give all the victims equal pay is sufficient. From this point of view, it would not be about the actual monetary value that is given, but rather the fact that compensation was issued in the first place. It appears that this is what the German government is attempting to do. By dividing the money equally amongst all of the victims it is apologizing to that group of people.

    Yet, if reparations are meant to actually compensate victims for the harm that each individual faced, this would be a different story and would raise quite a few feasibility questions. How would the government go about physically doing this? Is it feasible to take an account of every single story and to assign it a monetary value? Would this somehow commoditize the pain and suffering of each individual victim? Although it is important that each individual’s story be recognized, is the compensation they receive through reparations really the proper channel to deal with this?

  2. alexj528 November 25, 2012 at 1:15 am

    Although I understand the concern about the adequacy of reparations payments, (how can a lump sum of money divided among Holocaust survivors hope to atone for the atrocities that occurred?) I believe it is also important to consider the reparations and other actions available to a state such as Germany, as well as the course of action most appropriate for Germany specifically.

    Broadly speaking, a state can make monetary, or non-monetary reparations to victims. Non-monetary reparations include truth commissions, trials, museums, and other (generally symbolic) means. In some ways, monetary compensation is itself symbolic, representing an apology on behalf of the state itself, rather than one individual’s apology.

    In the case of Germany, many of the non-monetary options have been pursued adequately, leaving monetary compensation the most attractive benefit. While memorials and museums help establish the truth of the incident, that is not an issue at present, (Holocaust deniers are in the extreme minority). Monetary compensation, on the other hand, not only represents a symbolic and continuing apology from the state, it actively strives to improve the lives of survivors. This, in essence, is the goal of all reparations-to improve the life of the victims, physically and mentally, whether through truth and justice, or monetary compensation.

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