BERLIN (AP) – The organization that handles claims on behalf of Jews who suffered under the Nazis said on Wednesday that Germany agreed to include Jewish survivors who survived the Siege of Leningrad in World War II and two other groups who had not received monthly payments to compensate pensions from Germany.
The payments will go to approximately 6,500 survivors around the world, mainly in Israel, North America, the former Soviet Union and Western Europe, according to the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also known as the Claims Conference.
The new funding will target approximately 4,500 Jews who survived the Leningrad siege during World War II, approximately 800 who lived mostly hidden in France during the Nazi reign of terror, and approximately 1,200 Jewish survivors from Romania.
All of them will receive a lifelong monthly pension of 375 euros retroactively from July.
“That was a breakthrough breakthrough,” said Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of the Claims Conference, of the newly negotiated compensation agreement with the German government.
“For many of these people, it makes a difference whether they pay the rent for the month or the medication or buy groceries,” Schneider said in a telephone interview from New York with The Associated Press.
One of the recipients of the new monthly pension is Nonna Revzina, an 85-year-old woman who now lives in a Jewish retirement home in Berlin.
The retired librarian remembers the beginning of the siege of Leningrad by the Nazis in September 1941 when she was five years old. She still shudders when she remembers watching events on the sixth floor of her apartment building when the city was bombed by Nazi forces, utility lines were cut and hundreds of thousands died.
During an interview with the AP in her one-room apartment, Revzina wiped away tears when she talked about her father, who died of starvation and disease during the 1942 siege, and whose body her mother took on a sledge to a place nearby where Hundreds of bodies were piled up. She still doesn’t know where her father was buried.
The siege of Leningrad, today’s Russian city of St. Petersburg, lasted almost two and a half years until the Soviet army drove the Germans out on January 27, 1944.
Estimates of the death toll vary, but historians agree that more than 1 million Leningrad residents died of starvation or air and artillery bombardment during the siege.
“But in addition to all of this, there were additional measures that the Germans took against Jews,” said Schneider, such as the Nazis who threw leaflets into the city asking residents to identify Jews and throw them away, or send spies into town to try and cause rioting and then blame the Jews.
“In the midst of this huge military battle, the Nazis not only thought of the Russians, not just of conquering Leningrad, but actually thought about how to annihilate the Jews and kill the Jews living in the city,” said Schneider called called.
Revzina said she was aware that “if the Nazis had conquered the city, we Jews would all have been murdered immediately”.
The Russian emigrated to Germany in 1996, where her two adult children had moved a few years before her. Revzina helped raise her three grandchildren in Berlin.
After the end of World War II 76 years ago, Holocaust survivors are all older, and because many were deprived of proper nutrition in their youth, they now suffer from numerous medical problems. In addition, many live isolated lives, have lost their families in the war and are also psychologically stressed by persecution under National Socialism.
Many Holocaust survivors came out of the war with nothing and are still impoverished today.
The annual negotiations of the Claims Conference also include cooperation with Germany to increase the number of persons entitled to compensation.
Some of the 6,500 survivors who will now receive pensions have received one-off payments in the past, but that doesn’t prevent them from receiving the new benefits, the Claims Conference said.
Since 1952, the German government has paid approximately $ 90 billion to individuals for suffering and loss caused by Nazi persecution. In 2021, the Claims Conference will distribute approximately $ 625 million in direct compensation to over 260,000 survivors in 83 countries and approximately $ 640 million in grants to over 300 social services worldwide that provide services to Holocaust survivors.
With another 375 euros a month, Revzina can enjoy the little joys in life that she could not afford.
“The pension is very helpful to me,” she said. “I like going to cafes. I can do that more often now. “
Her granddaughter Lana Solovej was enthusiastic about the new pension.
“This is great news for her,” says the 23-year-old student, who often helps her grandmother with the daily household chores. “For my grandmother, the new pension will make a big difference.”