After the conclusion of World War II did the Germans pay reparations of some sort to the Jews?
A lot of people would probably assume that, yes, some sort of redress did occur, but that whatever it was, most likely was paid out in one, two, three, or perhaps four lump sum payments, and that the matter was over, settled, and done with, oh, say maybe five years after the war, or ten at most. Few people—or at any rate few who aren’t Jewish, or who don’t make a regular habit of reading the Jewish press—would guess that today, fully 67 years after the war, Germany continues to pay reparations to Jews, or that the benefits doled out keep going up every year, rather than down. But this is indeed the case.
In July of 2012 observances were held marking the 60th anniversary of the Luxembourg Agreement. The event took place in Washington D.C., with ceremonies held at the Israeli Embassy, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Hart Senate Office Building. So what, you may ask, is the Luxembourg Agreement?
Forcing the Germans to Pay Up
Formally known as the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany, Luxembourg is an agreement signed on September 10, 1952 following lengthy negotiations between an ad hoc committee of Jews representing various Jewish organizations, including the World Jewish Congress; officials from the new state of Israel; and representatives of the West German government, including the country’s then-chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The upshot of the accord was that West Germany was to make restitution, partly in the form of large payments to Israel, on behalf of Jews who had suffered during the Nazi era. The agreement is discussed at some length in an article by Mark Weber, who tells us the West Germans basically had little choice in the matter, and who also supplies us with a rather illuminating quote from Adenauer’s memoirs:
It was clear to me that, if the negotiations with the Jews failed, the negotiations at the London Debt Conference [which were going on at the same time] would also run aground, because Jewish banking circles would exert an influence upon the course of the London Debt Conference which should not be under-estimated. On the other hand it was self-evident that a failure of the London Debt Conference would bring about a failure of the negotiations with the Jews. If the German economy was to achieve a good credit standing and become strong again, the London Conference would have to be ended successfully. Only then would our economy develop in a way that would make the payments to Israel and the Jewish organizations possible. See 5.
More on the London Debt Conference can be found in a summary here, but basically it was an agreement on how German debts, mainly from the period between the two world wars, would be settled with a number of creditor nations, including the US, Britain, and France. Weber goes on to relate (emphases added):
Zionist leader Nahum Goldmann, President of the World Jewish Congress and chairman of the Claims Conference, warned of a worldwide campaign against Germany if the Bonn officials did not meet the Zionist demands: “The non-violent reaction of the whole world, supported by wide circles of non-Jews, who have deep sympathy with the martyrdom of the Jewish people during the Nazi period, would be irresistible and completely justified.” See 6. The London Jewish Observer was more blunt: “The whole material weight of world Jewry will be mobilized for an economic war against Germany, if Bonn’s offer of reparations remains unsatisfactory.” See 7.
Goldman and the other Jews who participated in the negotiations collectively came to be known as The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or simply the Claims Conference (CC). As a result of the agreement, the CC was installed, not only as the representative of world Jewry, but also essentially almost as an arbiter, procuring payments from West Germany on the basis of claims filed by individual Holocaust survivors. And here it should be strongly emphasized that German funds have gone out not just to the Jewish state, but also to Jewish individuals as well. According to one source, more than $60 billion has been paid out in the past 60 years to some 500,000 purported Holocaust survivors living in 87 different countries.
The claims process works like this: the money is handed over by Germany to the CC, which in turn will allocate it into different funds that it oversees, with each fund earmarked for a specific purpose. There is, for instance, an Article 2 Fund, which provides lifetime pensions for anyone held in a concentration camp, ghetto, or who worked on a forced labor battalion. Also eligible for an Article 2 pension would be those who were only “forced to go into hiding,” as Wikipedia puts it. And then we have a Hardship Fund, which provides one-time payments for those Jews who emigrated to the West from Soviet-bloc countries, and a Holocaust Victims Compensation Fund, providing one-time payments to emigrants from the former Soviet Union itself. The compensation amounts have increased over the years. Currently the Article 2 pensions are set at 300 euros a month, while payments from the Hardship Fund are 2,556 euros each, and the Holocaust Victims Compensation Fund 1,900 euros each.
In addition there is also a Central and Eastern European Fund, which, like Article 2, allocates monthly pensions, only these specifically are provided for Jewish survivors who, rather than emigrating to the West, remained in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union. These pensions are currently set at 260 euros per month, however, as of Jan. 1, 2013, they will increase to 300 euros a month, making them equal to the Article 2 pensions.
Different funds have different eligibility requirements. For instance, a person may qualify for the Hardship Fund if he/she underwent i) deprivation of liberty; ii) flight from the Nazi regime; iii) “restriction of liberty” as defined under BEG, a German restitution law passed in the 1950s; iv) restriction of movement such as having to observe a curfew, as well as compulsory registration with limitation of residence, or wearing the star of David; or if they v) resided in Leningrad at some time between September 1941 and January 1944, or fled from there during the same period. According to the Claims Conference website, the CC has approved 355,146 claimants and paid out $971 million under the Hardship Fund. Figures are also available for certain of the other funds: under the Article 2 fund, for instance, 85,608 applicants have been approved with a total payout of $3.3 billion; and for the Central and Eastern European Fund—24,307 applicants and $479 million . No figures seem to be available for the Holocaust Victim Compensation Fund, or for a new fund, known as the Orphans Fund, set up as of January 1 this year, The latter offers a one-time payment of 1,900 euros to those born 1928 or later who “were orphaned due to Nazi persecution” with both parents having been killed.
As mentioned above, the Israeli government has also been a recipient of huge piles of money (and goods) at the expense of German taxpayers (in fact, between largess from the taxpayers of Germany, as well as those in the U.S., the Zionist state is doing rather superbly for itself), and here again Weber provides some quotes that are quite instructive. One of these is from Goldman’s autobiography:
What the Luxembourg Agreement meant to Israel is for the historians of the young state to determine. That the goods Israel received from Germany were a decisive economic factor in its development is beyond doubt. I do not know what economic dangers might have threatened Israel at critical moments if it had not been for German supplies. Railways and telephones, dock installations and irrigation plants, whole areas of industry and agriculture, would not be where they are today without the reparations from Germany. And hundreds of thousands of Jewish victims of Nazism have received considerable sums under the law of restitution. See 11.
The second quote is also from Goldman, though taken from a 1976 interview with the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur:
Without the German reparations, the State of Israel would not have the half of its present infrastructure: every train in Israel is German, the ships are German, as well as the electricity, a large part of the industry … without mentioning the individual pensions paid to the survivors … In certain years, the amount of money received by Israel from Germany exceeds the total amount of money collected from international Jewry-two or three times as much. See 12.
Goldman of course played a key role in negotiating the Luxembourg Agreement, so maybe he’s only overly-touting his own achievements. But at this point Weber also supplies us with a quote from Jewish historian Walter Laqueur:
The ships laden with German capital goods began to call at Haifa regularly and unfailingly, becoming an important — ultimately a decisive — factor in the building up of the country. Today  the Israeli fleet is almost entirely “made in Germany,” as are its modern railway equipment, the big steel foundry near Acre, and many other enterprises. During the 50’s and early 60’s about one-third of investment goods imported into Israel came from Germany … In addition to all this, many individual Israelis received restitution privately. See 13.