Germany to give $662 million in aid to Holocaust survivors

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FILE - A picture taken just after the liberation by the Soviet army in January, 1945, shows a group of children wearing concentration camp uniforms at the time behind barbed wire fencing in the Oswiecim (Auschwitz) nazi concentration camp. Germany has agreed to provide more than a half billion euros to aid Holocaust survivors struggling under the burdens of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization that negotiates compensation with the German government said Wednesday. (AP Photo/CAF pap, file)

BERLIN – Germany has agreed to provide more than a half billion euros to aid Holocaust survivors struggling under the burdens of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization that negotiates compensation with the German government said Wednesday.

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, over the next two years, according to the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also referred to as the Claims Conference.

With the end of World War II now 75 years in the past, Holocaust survivors are all elderly, and because many were deprived of proper nutrition when they were young today they suffer from numerous medical issues. In addition, many live isolated lives having lost their entire families and also have psychological issues because of their persecution under the Nazis.

“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,'” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, in a telephone interview from New York with The Associated Press.

“But if you probe deeper you understand the depths of trauma that still resides within people.”

Many are also on the poverty line, and the additional costs of masks and other protective gear, delivery groceries and other pandemic-related expenses has been crushing for many, Schneider said.

“You're teetering between making it every month,” he said. “Having to decide between food, medicine and rent.”

The new funds are targeted to Jews who aren't receiving pensions already from Germany, primarily people who fled the Nazis and ended up in Russia and elsewhere to hide during the war.