Holocaust Restitution: German Pensions for Work in Ghetto Law
The German Pensions for Work in Ghettos Law (ZRBG) is a German Holocaust reparation law available to Holocaust survivors who were employed for remuneration during their internment in Nazi ghettos annexed to the Third Reich. The law was first created in 1997, passed abd expanded upon in 2002 and ultimately revised in 2013.
In 1997, it was discovered that even during the Holocaust, German employers were often making contributions to the pension funds of Jewish employees working in the ghettos. This entitled the employees to pension payments similar to those received by their fellow German citizens. The "Ghetto Workers Law," as it is also known, was therefore passed to consider these labor periods in the ghetto as an insured period to be counted as contribution credits to German Social Security.
In order to qualify for restitution, the applicant must have:
- Status as a persecuted person under the BEG German Federal Indemnification Laws.
- Forced residence in a Ghetto in a territory occupied or incorporated into the German Reich. According to the German pension insurance institutions, such ghettos are “deemed to be in particular ghettos in occupied or incorporated Polish territories and in occupied Soviet and/or Baltic territories.” The law includes open ghettos.
- A minimum qualifying period of 5 years, or 60 months, must have been completed in labor.
- Work must have been done "voluntarily" (with a degree of free choice) and for some form of remuneration or equivalent exchange.
- No credit has already been given in any foreign (non-German) social security scheme for the same ghetto work period.
After the law's passage in 2002, however, the majority of applications were rejected on the basis of absurd claims. "The courts demanded that these employees produce pay slips and formal proof of employment,â€ said Emmanuel Nachshon, political minister at the Israeli embassy in Berlin.
In March 2013, the German parliament rejected an amendment to the law that would have provided payments retroactively from 1997 for 20,000 additional Holocaust survivors who are entitled to pension payouts but have yet to recieve the funds.
In reponse the decision, the Israeli Foreign Ministry released a statement voicing their disappointment with the Bundestag: "Israel is disappointed that, to date, no appropriate solution has been found to satisfy satisfy recognized and legitimate pension entitlement claims by former ghetto survivors, in accordance with German law (2002 legislation on pension payments for former ghetto workers). While we have faith in Germany's good will to solve this painful problem, we must not forget that this issue relates to an aging population which expects legal and moral justice to be done before it is too late. Israel will continue to work on mending the wrongs in this issue."
Sources:The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany; JTA; Haaretz