Turkey sees no normalization of Israel ties without end to Gaza blockade


Turkey sees no normalization in ties with Israel unless its conditions for ending the Gaza blockade and compensation for the deaths of 10 Turkish activists in 2010 are met, a presidential spokesman said on Monday.

Relations between Turkey and Israel soured when the activists were killed in a raid by Israeli commandos on a Turkish boat, the Mavi Marmara, which was trying to breach the blockade.

Expectations of a breakthrough were intensified after senior officials met this month to try to repair ties. The talks have raised hopes of progress in negotiations to import Israeli natural gas, particularly since Turkey's relationship with major energy producer Russia has worsened over Syria.

But comments from Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin suggest Turkey may be trying to play tough in the negotiations.

“Turkey – Israel relations will not normalize until Israel realizes the three conditions. We have not given up on these,” Kalin said at a regular news conference.

Ankara wants an apology for the Mavi Marmara killings, and compensation for families. It also wants Israel to end the blockade of Palestinians living in Gaza, seen as a sticking point in the talks.

“Turkey will continue to play its role until a two-state solution is reached, and the Palestinian people have their own state. There cannot be permanent peace in the region until the Palestinian problem is solved,” Kalin told reporters in Ankara.

Asked to respond to the remarks from Ankara, an Israeli official declined to discuss Gaza policy, saying only: “We will not be conducting negotiations through the media.”

Israeli officials have previously described the blockade on Gaza, which is supported by neighboring Egypt, as a necessary means of preventing arms smuggling by Palestinian militants.

Israel allows commercial goods into Gaza through its land crossings and said that nearly 128,000 tons of material, or 3,750 truckloads, entered the enclave last week.

Mystery Australian’s next-of-kin seek compensation from Israel


Relatives of an Australian immigrant to Israel who killed himself in 2010 while secretly jailed on charges of violating national security are seeking compensation from the state, a source briefed on the affair said on Friday.

The source said the talks were preliminary as Israel had not formally faulted its prison authorities in the death of Ben Zygier, which was made public this week by an Australian television expose that described him as a Mossad officer.

A Mossad link has been neither denied nor confirmed by Australia or Israel, where military censorship and court gag orders kept many details of the case from the media.

The silence has fanned media speculation that Israel believes the 34-year-old Melbourne Jew had betrayed its intelligence agency's high-stakes work abroad.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which oversees the Mossad, did not respond for a request for comment on the matter.

Israel's Haaretz daily said the state agreed to pay “several million shekels” in damages to Zygier's family around six weeks ago, when an internal inquest declared his death a suicide.

The inquest result was disclosed by the Justice Ministry on Wednesday, in Israel's only official statement on the case. The statement, which did not identify Zygier by name, said a judge had also ordered an “evaluation regarding issues of negligence”.

A source briefed on the affair denied there had been any agreement to compensate Zygier's family for the failure of staff to prevent his suicide at Ayalon prison, where he had been held for months, under alias and in isolation from other inmates.

“There's no decision on negligence yet, so there's no compensation in any form in that regard,” the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “What there have been are initial inquiries by the deceased's representatives about compensation.”

“GRAVE CRIMES”

A Zygier family lawyer, Moshe Mazur, declined to comment, citing the sensitivity of the case.

So did Israel's Prisons Service. But one of its officials voiced skepticism about the idea of compensation being agreed with Zygier's family, saying such payouts in negligence cases could take “years” to negotiate.

Avigdor Feldman, an Israeli lawyer with whom Zygier briefly consulted while in prison, said he knew of no compensation deal.

Were the state to pay damages for negligence, he said, it would not reflect any official position on Zygier's guilt or innocence: “Even convicted criminals are eligible for compensation if their jailers fail to provide for their well-being as required.”

Feldman said Zygier died after being indicted for “grave crimes” but before being tried. Zygier had denied the charges against him but was considering a plea bargain, Feldman said.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said on Thursday that Canberra was told Zygier had been held over “serious offences under Israeli national security legislation”.

Feldman told Israeli radio on Thursday that a “Mossad liaison” contact had arranged his with Zygier.

The Age, a Melbourne newspaper, said in a report citing Australian security officials that Zygier may have been in contact with the intelligence services of his native country and “been about to blow the whistle” about Mossad operations – including their possible fraudulent use of Australian passports.

A veteran intelligence officer who declined to be identified by name or nationality said there was a possibility that, had Zygier indeed served Mossad, the agency would have paid death benefits to his family – regardless of the charges against him.

“If he was never tried, then he was never found guilty, and he may be considered to have died while in active service,” the intelligence veteran said. “That would make his next-of-kin eligible to the various relevant payouts.”

The Hebrew word for compensation, “pitzuim”, can also be used for benefits paid without claims of misconduct.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Giles Elgood

HEALTH CARE DECISION — Jews React: Beverly Hills cardiologist and internist


Beverly Hills cardiologist and internist Dr. Reed Wilson – a former member of the Republican Jewish Coalition who helped found its Los Angeles chapter – called the mandate “an amazing breach of the American trust.” Moreover, he said, the law’s finer print contains “rules and regulations” pertaining to doctor reimbursement rates that will threaten physicians’ private practices and health care quality.

“I want to be able to take care of my patients in a way that I think is wise medicine, is good quality medicine. I don’t want to be subjected to rules that I think are detrimental to my patients,” Wilson said.

But “the Supreme Court decision is one we are going to have to live with,” he added.

The Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement shortly after the decision came down, expressing disappointment: “The serious negative effects this law will have on the economy, on jobs, on medical research and development and on the quality of health care in America are very troubling.”

Chile calls on Israel to compensate for park fire


Chilean investigators reportedly believe that a fire in a popular national park is the work of arsonists, though an Israeli remains charged with negligently starting the blaze.

Some Chilean lawmakers have called on Israel to compensate Chile for the damage because an Israeli national has been charged with starting the fire in the Torres del Paine national park. The fires were still burning on Jan. 3 but were under control.

Rotem Singer, 23, of the central Israeli city of Nes Tziona, was arrested Dec. 31 and released on bail. He was ordered to remain in the region for the next three months as the case is investigated.

Some 48 wildfires have burned more than 32,000 acres of forest and destroyed at least 100 homes.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Jan. 2 released a statement expressing “solidarity” with Chile and “sorrow” over the destruction to the national park and tourist site.

“Israel has also experienced a similar disaster last year in the Carmel forests, and that painful memory enhances our sense of common destiny,” the statement said.

The Foreign Ministry said that “the deep friendship the Israeli people feel toward Chile is as strong as ever.”

The ministry offered to send a mission of experts in forestry to assist in rehabilitating the forest and to donate tree seedlings for the effort.

Forward’s salary rankings: Men got more money, better raises


The Forward’s second annual survey of 74 major Jewish national organizations found that in the past year, women lost ground in leadership, continued to lag behind men in pay and did not experience the same increases in salary that a majority of the men enjoyed despite these recessionary times. (VIEW THE SURVEY HERE)

While there were 11 women serving as presidents and CEOs of federations, advocacy and public service groups, and religious institutions last year, there are now only nine. Even though the work force in these organizations is overwhelmingly female, the percentage of women in leadership roles has dropped in the past year to 12% from 14%.

In this, the Jewish communal experience is dramatically at odds with trends in the broader not-for-profit world. GuideStar, which collects the informational tax forms that not-for-profit groups are required to file with the Internal Revenue Service, reported in September that women were chief executives of nearly 47% of the nation’s charities in 2008. Although women were concentrated in smaller organizations, even in the larger charities — those with annual budgets of more than $1 million — they still held 38% of the top roles.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/133803/#ixzz180nH1H7t

Shoah survivors apply for ‘voluntary’ ghetto work pay


As a teenager in Ukraine, Yakov Margulis worked every day except Saturday from morning until dark. During the summer, he toiled long hours on a farm. In winter, he repaired machinery.

“In exchange for work, they gave me food to eat,” Margulis says.

This lasted from December 1941 to September 1943, when the Nazis confined Margulis to a ghetto in Semikhatka, a village near the city of Mykolaiv. He shared one large room with his parents and some 50 other people. At night, they all slept on a hay-covered floor.

From October 1943 to May 1944, Margulis worked for a construction company at a nearby port, manually loading and unloading barges. Again, he was lured by the promise only of food.

Now, more than 60 years later, Margulis hopes to be paid money for all that work.

Margulis, 82, sits in the library of Bet Tzedek, the nonprofit legal services agency that has taken on the job of helping Holocaust survivors apply for compensation under a new Ghetto Work Payment Program. Established by an executive order of the German federal government issued Oct. 1, 2007, the program is granting a one-time payment of 2,000 Euros (about $3,000) to survivors who worked “voluntarily” in a ghetto under German control.

On this morning, nine survivors are paired with volunteer attorneys from the Los Angeles law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Margulis sits with lawyer Farshad MorÃ(c).

“What kind of work did you perform?” MorÃ(c) asks.

“Agriculture,” he replies. “Tractor. Combine.”

Margulis talks slowly, taking his glasses on and off. Having emigrated from Odessa, Ukraine to Los Angeles in 1990, he speaks in heavily accented English.

The details are vague, and Margulis relates them matter-of-factly. He becomes visibly agitated only once, when he says, “My first job was removing dead bodies from huts in the village.”

He explains that fellow Jews asked him and other strong, younger men to perform this work. He quickly changes the subject.

MorÃ(c) gently pushes Margulies to tell more about his work for the Nazis. It is imperative to get an accurate accounting and to show that the work was “voluntary.”

This is the seventh clinic Bet Tzedek has run for the Ghetto Work Payment Program. More than 100 applications have been processed, and Bet Tzedek deputy litigation director Wendy Marantz Levine estimates that the agency could file 500 or more applications for eligible survivors living in Los Angeles. To date, 20 clinics have been scheduled, and the German government has not set a deadline.

“Bet Tzedek is committed to processing all eligible survivors, even visiting homebound clients when necessary,” Levine said.

Each claim takes two to three hours to fill out, and Bet Tzedek relies on volunteers, mostly attorneys from Los Angeles law firms. About eight firms are participating in the process, including Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Latham & Watkins; Manatt, Phelps & Phillips; O’Melveny & Myers, and Strook & Strook & Lavan on multiple dates. Additionally, in-house attorneys from such companies as Countrywide have signed up.

In the daylong clinics, attorneys generally see one survivor in the morning and another in the afternoon. All survivors are prescreened by Bet Tzedek staff and given specific appointment dates. Prior to the survivors’ arrival, the attorneys attend a one-hour training session for which they receive MCLE (minimum continuing legal education) credit.

Conducted by Bet Tzedek Holocaust Services attorney Volker Schmidt, who is licensed to practice law in both California and Germany, the session provides an overview of German-created Jewish ghettos, prior reparations programs, the German legal system and detailed instructions on how to process the new applications.

The new program was created to fix problems associated with the former ghetto payment program, commonly known as ZRBG, a German acronym for Payment of Pensions From Employment in a Ghetto. That was established in 2002, a result of a German court ruling requiring that people who worked in ghettos be paid. It stipulated, however, that the work be both “voluntarily” and “for pay.” The two criteria, given the circumstances, were difficult to prove, and Germany turned down more than 87 percent of all ZRBG applications.

Under pressure from the United States and Israel, the German government created the new Ghetto Work Payment Program, in which the “for pay” requirement has been abolished. Still, the definition of “voluntary” work is unclear.

Schmidt explains to the attorneys that ghetto life was controlled by the Germans, with Judenrat — Jewish councils — often overseeing day-to-day life. Employment included such jobs as snow shoveling, food production, road repair or anything necessary to keep the city functioning.

“Voluntary means that the survivor had some choice or influence under how the work was performed or how the work came about,” Schmidt says.

For example, the survivor may have worked because he wanted extra food or lodging.

Schmidt also cautions that obtaining the information from survivors, who are elderly and often contending with medical issues, is often not easy or straightforward. He points to the boxes of tissues on each of the three long conference tables and tells the attorneys to let the survivors relate their entire story and to take as many breaks as necessary.

“We are asking the survivors to relive some of the most horrific events in their lives,” he says. “Many saw their parents and siblings taken to the gas chambers.”

But despite its painful nature, the experience is valuable for the attorneys.

“I don’t get that many opportunities to do something meaningful,” says MorÃ(c), a real estate attorney who also participated in Bet Tzedek’s Hungarian reparations clinics in 2006.

The Ghetto Work Payment Program is the first new German reparations program in years, and, according to Bet Tzedek Holocaust Services attorney Lisa Hoffman, “This might be one of the last.”

Hoffman emphasizes that time is critical, as the number of survivors diminishes daily. To prove her point, she says that in the few weeks’ time between the prescreening and the clinic, one survivor died. And only the day before this clinic, another survivor suffered a heart attack.

New Shoah pension deal gives survivors ‘recognition of suffering’


For Aviva G., the significance of last week’s announcement that more Holocaust survivors like her will be eligible for pension payments from the German government was not about the money. It was about principle and the notion that a certain degree of justice may now be done.

Aviva, 71, says there is no true compensation for years in ghettos, but she sees the new deal as a “recognition of suffering.” Aviva asked that her family name be withheld.

After extensive negotiations with the Conference for Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Germany eased some eligibility requirements so more low-income survivors like Aviva can receive so-called Article 2 pension payments.

The agreement, which adds $250 million to the pension fund over 10 years, may be one of the last and biggest breakthroughs in the area of reparations to survivors, according to the Claims Conference.

The deal affects survivors whose income levels made them ineligible for payments in the past. Until now, those with annual income above $16,000 were excluded from the payments.

Under the new deal, income received from other pension sources, including governmental pensions, disability payments, retirement plans and the like, or a spouse’s income, will not be counted toward the $16,000 total.

The change effectively enables thousands more low-income survivors to collect pension payments from Germany. The funds will be distributed starting Oct. 1 and continue for 10 years.

“It’s a huge thing,” Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, said in a telephone interview with JTA. “It will make a big difference for a lot of people worldwide.”

Taylor said it took “a long battle” and months of negotiations to reach the agreement.

The Claims Conference will be launching a major advertising campaign to reach those who might be eligible, he said. Information about how to apply is available at Claims Conference offices and on its Web site, www.claimscon.org. There is no deadline for applications, according to Taylor.

The decision to lower the bar for eligibility comes just as Germany has enacted a law granting pensions to victims of the German Communist regime. For these victims, too, pensions and income from spouses will not count against eligibility.

The Law for Support of Victims of the Socialist German Dictatorship, the third post-reunification law aimed at compensating victims of World War II, was enacted Aug. 29. Low-income applicants who were imprisoned under the Communist regime for at least six months may receive 250 euro per month.

The additional payments for Holocaust survivors will be from the Claims Conference Article 2 Fund pension program, which currently distributes pensions to 51,000 survivors. The new rules will lead to a 10 percent increase in those who qualify for payments, or about 6,000 people, the Claims Conference estimated.

Aviva might be among the younger ones. Born in 1938 in Boryslaw, then part of Poland, she was a small child when German troops wrested the region from Soviet control in the summer of 1941. Most of the town’s Jews were killed, but Aviva’s mother managed to hide her in the ghetto while most other children were deported.

“When my mother found out that all the women and children and nonworking old men would be deported, we left the ghetto and hid in the woods, and then in the home of a Ukrainian woman who had worked for us,” Aviva said.

Her brother, who later was killed, gave the woman money to hide them. For a while, Aviva and her mother lived in the space behind a wardrobe pushed against a corner.

The woman “slipped the food to us from below,” Aviva recalled. “I could not be loud. I could not laugh, cry or shout. And afterward, for months I could only whisper.”

They were liberated by Russian troops at the end of 1944.

Aviva met her husband, Juergen, an engineer, in Israel, and returned with him to his native Germany in 1958. They had two daughters and now have five grandchildren who live in Israel.

For decades, Aviva was a social worker for the Frankfurt Jewish community. She and her husband are retired.

She said she received a small reparations payment from Germany of 5,000 Deutschmark in the 1950s — that’s worth about $3,500 today — “but that is nothing for the fact that I basically lost my childhood.”

She applied for Article 2 payments in 2000 but was told her income was slightly over the limit.

“That disappointed me a lot,” she said. “Thank God, I am financially not so dependent. It is more a moral issue. This suffering I experienced as a child was never recognized.”

Process of Payments


Virtually all Jews locked up in concentration camps, ghettos and similar places of incarceration during the Holocaust may now apply for compensation from a newly created $5 billion German foundation. And on Feb. 5, the names of 21,000 probable Holocaust victims whose dormant accounts still sit in Swiss banks were posted on the Internet.

These two efforts are the first major attempts to see that survivors and their heirs begin to realize the fruits of talks that started with Swiss negotiations five years ago. The Swiss negotiations resulted in a court-approved $1.25 billion fund being established, 80 percent of which has been set aside to pay the heirs of those who had money in bank accounts the Swiss hoarded.

While applauding steps to begin the distribution, Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said he was "appalled that the total going to lawyers is on the order of $100 million from both of these funds." The figure was either negotiated or court ordered and represents a fraction of the total.

Survivors and their heirs are asked to complete applications if they believe they qualify for money from either fund. Applications can be downloaded from the Internet or obtained from toll-free numbers and at several locations in greater Los Angeles (see box, below).

As many as 170,000 Jewish survivors worldwide are expected to apply for the German money, which is designed to compensate slave and forced laborers. Those who were slave laborers may receive up to $7,500, forced laborers up to $2,500.

As part of Hitler’s Final Solution, Jews were forced to perform labor under the harshest of conditions as one way of exterminating the Jews of Europe. Therefore, all those thrown into concentration camps, ghettos and other areas of confinement are considered former slave laborers and thus entitled to compensation. Forced laborers are those who were made to work in areas under Nazi or Axis occupation during World War II under conditions not included in the definition of a slave laborer.

Claims will be accepted from former slave or forced laborers except those currently residing in Poland, the Czech Republic and other former Communist nations. Their respective national foundations will process their claims. Certain heirs of former laborers who died on or since Feb. 16 are also eligible.

Those who received previous payments from a private German industry fund for slave and/or forced labor will have such payments deducted from the amount they will now receive. This fund is independent of other funds and requires new applications. Payments will be made in two stages, with the second amount dependent on the number of people who apply. Applications must be filed by Aug. 11.

To obtain an application to apply for money under this fund, call (800) 697-6064 or go to the Web site www.claimscon.org. Information is available on the Web site in seven languages.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany will help administer the fund. It estimates that as many as 50,000 survivors in the United States and Canada are eligible for the money.

"Nothing can make whole again the horrors during the Third Reich," said Rabbi Israel Miller, president of the Claims Conference. "But survivors have received some justice through Germany’s recognition of its moral obligation to create this fund."

Half of the foundation’s money will come from the German government and the rest from more than 5,000 of the country’s businesses, including Volkswagen, Daimler-Benz, Bayer and Siemens. Most German industry and business benefited from slave or forced labor during the Holocaust.

In the Swiss case, applications for those who believe they are heirs of Holocaust victims whose money still sits in Swiss banks are available. To obtain an application form, call (800) 881-2736, or visit one of the following Web sites: www.dormantaccounts.ch, www.crt-ii.org or www.swissbankclaims.com.

Although 26,000 names were to be posted, Michael Bradfield, a special master appointed by Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Edward Korman, said the number was reduced to 21,000 because of a duplication of names. He said a special team of auditors headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker found that there were 36,000 dormant accounts probably opened by Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. But in a compromise with Swiss banks, only 21,000 will be posted.

Bradfield said that anyone who believes he or she is the heir of a Holocaust victim who had a Swiss account should complete the application form whether or not the victim’s name is posted on the Internet. Even those who paid a Swiss ombudsman to search Swiss bank records and were told no account existed should apply.

"The ombudsman didn’t look where [the auditors] looked," said Bradfield. "We have a lot of accounts that were closed that the ombudsman never looked at."

He stressed that the entire process is free, and there is no need to hire a lawyer. The deadline for filing applications is in six months; Bradfield said he expected 100,000 claims to be filed. He said it is expected to take two years to review and act on each application and that every filing will be acknowledged. Once a determination is made, a letter will be sent explaining the disposition. Under Swiss law, the names can be kept confidential, but the dollar amounts will be made public.

Those applying for dormant funds will be asked to provide "plausible information to demonstrate that they have a legitimate relationship [to the person on the list] and that they would be the heir under normal inheritance laws," Bradfield said. "We are looking for plausible evidence, taking into account the destruction of documents, the disruption of the war and horrible persecution."

These local agencies are offering applications for payments from the fund for slave and forced laborers:

Los Angeles
(310) 271-3306;
(323) 937-5900
Valley
(818) 984-1380
West Hollywood
(323) 851-8202

Santa Monica
(310) 393-0732
Bet Tzedek:
(323) 549-5883
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust:
(323) 761-8170

Agreement Reached for Slave Laborers


Jews who worked as slave laborers during the Nazi era are one step closer to receiving some measure of compensation for their ordeal.

After months of torturous negotiations, an agreement has been reached to establish a $5.2 billion fund for these victims of the Holocaust, according to several lawyers and Jewish officials involved in the talks.

The money will come from Germany, a group of German companies, and U.S. companies whose German subsidiaries used slave labor during the war, said Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which was among the groups negotiating on behalf of the laborers.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is slated to be in Berlin on Friday for the announcement of the agreement.

An issue still to be decided — which may prove as contentious as the negotiations themselves — is the process of distributing the funds to survivors.

The allocation “is still being discussed,” Taylor said.

The German offer would affect some 250,000 concentration camp survivors — 135,000 of them Jewish — who were enslaved by German companies during the war.

It would also compensate between 475,000 and 1.2 million non-Jewish forced laborers from Central and Eastern Europe who were deported and sent to work in Germany.

Payments would also go to other victims who never received reparations.

In addition to the $5.2 billion, claims against German insurers being handled by the International Commission on Holocaust Era Claims also are expected to be included in the fund, though this part of the agreement remained unclear.

The commission, which is headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, was scheduled to meet Wednesday in London.

“We hope that this will be a much delayed measure of justice for Holocaust survivors,” Taylor said.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat, who is representing the United States in the negotiations, declined Tuesday to give any details about the agreement before making a formal announcement Friday, according to his office.

The agreement came after months of difficult negotiations.

During the past several days, there was a flurry of activity. On Monday, lawyers for survivors reduced their demand to $5.7 billion. Earlier in the talks, the lawyers had demanded $28 billion. Germany and the group of German companies recently offered $4.2 billion to create the fund.

With the latest — and much reduced — demand from the victims’ representatives, the German side increased its offer and a compromise was achieved.

Michael Witti, an attorney for survivors based in Munich, said Tuesday that even with an agreement, there would be “no feeling of victory on the side of the victims.”

“You can never repay people for what they suffered,” he said.

A similar sentiment was expressed by survivor Hans Frankenthal, 73, who for 22 months during the war worked as a slave laborer at an armaments factory in the Mauthausen concentration camp and at I.G. Farben’s chemical factory near Auschwitz.

An agreement would mean a “guarantee that there would be no more suits,” said Frankenthal. “But you can’t take away” the history of the war.

Frankenthal, who recently published his memoirs, never received any compensation for his years of slave labor.

So far, 17 German firms have signed on to the industry initiative, and about 60 are considering doing so, according to industry spokesman Wolfgang Gibowski.

Among the U.S. firms with German subsidiaries that employed slave labor, a spokesman for Opel AG, the German branch of General Motors, said on Monday that Opel would join the industry fund.

Though the amount of the contribution has not been decided, “we are confessing our responsibility,” Opel spokesman Bruno Seifert said on Monday.

A Ford spokesman told reporters Monday that the company is one of some 200 companies with German operations that are considering taking part in the industry fund.

Publicity over the slave labor issue has achieved mixed results in Germany.

On one hand, a recent opinion poll suggested that the wrangling over money had caused latent German anti-Semitism to resurface.

On the other hand, some Germans have reacted with disgust to the news that many existing German companies whose predecessors used slave laborers are not joining the compensation fund.

A German newspaper this week published a letter from one reader, who hoped that “many, many people will boycott the products” of those German firms unwilling to participate in the fund.

“I for one don’t need any Bahlsen cookies or AGFA film or WFM tableware, nor Miele washing machines.”

JTA correspondent Toby Axelrod in Berlin contributed to this report.


Laborers File Suit for Wartime Injustices


Jews who worked as slave laborers during the Nazi era are one step closer to receiving some measure of compensation for their ordeal.

After months of torturous negotiations, an agreement has been reached to establish a $5.2 billion fund for these victims of the Holocaust, according to several lawyers and Jewish officials involved in the talks.

The money will come from Germany, a group of German companies, and U.S. companies whose German subsidiaries used slave labor during the war, said Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which was among the groups negotiating on behalf of the laborers.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is slated to be in Berlin on Friday for the announcement of the agreement.

An issue still to be decided — which may prove as contentious as the negotiations themselves — is the process of distributing the funds to survivors.

The allocation “is still being discussed,” Taylor said.

The German offer would affect some 250,000 concentration camp survivors — 135,000 of them Jewish — who were enslaved by German companies during the war.

It would also compensate between 475,000 and 1.2 million non-Jewish forced laborers from Central and Eastern Europe who were deported and sent to work in Germany.

Payments would also go to other victims who never received reparations.

In addition to the $5.2 billion, claims against German insurers being handled by the International Commission on Holocaust Era Claims also are expected to be included in the fund, though this part of the agreement remained unclear.

The commission, which is headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, was scheduled to meet Wednesday in London.

“We hope that this will be a much delayed measure of justice for Holocaust survivors,” Taylor said.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat, who is representing the United States in the negotiations, declined Tuesday to give any details about the agreement before making a formal announcement Friday, according to his office.

The agreement came after months of difficult negotiations.

During the past several days, there was a flurry of activity. On Monday, lawyers for survivors reduced their demand to $5.7 billion. Earlier in the talks, the lawyers had demanded $28 billion. Germany and the group of German companies recently offered $4.2 billion to create the fund.

With the latest — and much reduced — demand from the victims’ representatives, the German side increased its offer and a compromise was achieved.

Michael Witti, an attorney for survivors based in Munich, said Tuesday that even with an agreement, there would be “no feeling of victory on the side of the victims.”

“You can never repay people for what they suffered,” he said.

A similar sentiment was expressed by survivor Hans Frankenthal, 73, who for 22 months during the war worked as a slave laborer at an armaments factory in the Mauthausen concentration camp and at I.G. Farben’s chemical factory near Auschwitz.

An agreement would mean a “guarantee that there would be no more suits,” said Frankenthal. “But you can’t take away” the history of the war.

Frankenthal, who recently published his memoirs, never received any compensation for his years of slave labor.

So far, 17 German firms have signed on to the industry initiative, and about 60 are considering doing so, according to industry spokesman Wolfgang Gibowski.

Among the U.S. firms with German subsidiaries that employed slave labor, a spokesman for Opel AG, the German branch of General Motors, said on Monday that Opel would join the industry fund.

Though the amount of the contribution has not been decided, “we are confessing our responsibility,” Opel spokesman Bruno Seifert said on Monday.

A Ford spokesman told reporters Monday that the company is one of some 200 companies with German operations that are considering taking part in the industry fund.

Publicity over the slave labor issue has achieved mixed results in Germany.

On one hand, a recent opinion poll suggested that the wrangling over money had caused latent German anti-Semitism to resurface.

On the other hand, some Germans have reacted with disgust to the news that many existing German companies whose predecessors used slave laborers are not joining the compensation fund.

A German newspaper this week published a letter from one reader, who hoped that “many, many people will boycott the products” of those German firms unwilling to participate in the fund.

“I for one don’t need any Bahlsen cookies or AGFA film or WFM tableware, nor Miele washing machines.”

JTA correspondent Toby Axelrod in Berlin contributed to this report.


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