Germany has agreed to provide approximately $662 million dollars in economic aid to Holocaust survivors struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the organization that negotiates compensation on behalf of those persecuted by the Nazis.
The New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also known as the Claims Conference, announced on Wednesday that the payments will be going to approximately 240,000 survivors around the world, primarily in Israel, North America, the former Soviet Union and Western Europe.
Each of those survivors will receive two payments of 1,200 euros — approximately $1,400 — over the next two years, for an overall commitment of approximately 564 million euros ($662 million).
“These increased benefits achieved by the hard work of our negotiation’s delegation during these unprecedented times, will help our efforts to ensure dignity and stability in survivors’ final years,” said Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference. “We must meet the challenges of the increasing needs of survivors as they age, coupled with the new and urgent necessities caused by the global pandemic. It will always remain our moral imperative to keep fighting for every survivor.”
The Claims Conference, which negotiated the funds with the German government, said the funds will benefit tens of thousands of the poorest survivors alive.
Many elderly Holocaust survivors suffer from medical issues stemming from having been deprived of proper nutrition when they were younger, The Associated Press reported.
“There’s this kind of standard response for survivors, that ‘we’ve been through worse, I’ve been through worse and if I survived the Holocaust, through the deprivation of food and what we had to go through, I’ll get through this,’” Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, told AP.
“But if you probe deeper you understand the depths of trauma that still resides within people,” he added.
AP noted that many have psychological issues stemming from persecution and the deaths of their loved ones at the hands of the Nazis.
Many also live isolated lives on the poverty line, making pandemic-related expenses like masks and grocery deliveries devastating for their finances.
“You’re teetering between making it every month,” he said. “Having to decide between food, medicine and rent.”
Schneider told the outlet that about 50 percent of Holocaust survivors in the United States live in Brooklyn borough of New York City, which was the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak earlier this year.
Negotiations with Germany also reportedly resulted in 30.5 million euros (approximately $36 million) over last year in funding for social welfare services for Holocaust survivors, according to the Claims Conference. The funds brings the total global allocation for 2021 for social welfare services funded by Germany to more than $653 million.
The funding provides in-home care for more than 83,000 frail and vulnerable Holocaust survivors. The Claims Conference also assists 70,000 survivors with other vital services, including food, medicine, transportation to doctors and programs to alleviate social isolation.
The German government this year agreed to recognize 27 “open ghettos” in Bulgaria and Romania, enabling survivors who were in those places to also receive compensation payments.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on the negotiations.