Germany announced Tuesday it will extend compensation to the surviving spouses of Holocaust survivors by nine months.
The organization that handles claims on behalf of Jews who suffered under the Nazis made the decision. Previously, once a Holocaust victim passed away, their spouse was immediately cut off from any source of support.
The New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany said Berlin agreed to continue pensions for nine months after long negotiations.
The payment is expected to be granted to some 14,000 spouses retroactively and a total of about 30,000 people are expected to qualify, conference negotiator Greg Schneider said.
“We have survivors who have been just getting by for many years,” Schneider said in a telephone interview with AP from New York. “This extra nine months of income gives a cushion for the family of the survivor to figure out how to deal with their new circumstances.”
This is the second time Germany has acted to offer more compensation to those who suffered under the Nazis.
An additional $200 million for 2016-2017 and $400 million for 2018 was added to the $1 billion secured by the conference against Germany in 2013.
“We commend the government of Germany for recognizing its continuing obligation to victims of the Holocaust more than 70 years after liberation,” said former U.S. ambassador to the European Union Stuart Eizenstat, who led the conference’s negotiation team.
“We have worked exhaustively to arrive at this agreement with the German government. Holocaust survivors, now in their final years, should know of our total commitment to trying to ensure they live in dignity with the help they need.”
The conference carries out continuous negotiations with the German government to expand categories of people eligible for compensation for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis.
The conference established its own fund in 1963 to also aid so-called Righteous Gentiles — non-Jews who helped Jews survive the Holocaust — and this year the German government agreed to help fund those payments.
Schneider said there are some 277 Righteous Gentiles still alive today, whose average age is 91, who also qualify for financial assistance.
“These are non-Jews who risked their lives and the lives of their families to save Jews during the Holocaust. They literally put their lives at stake to save others,” Schneider said. “Every one of these people should live with the greatest of dignity, so it was important for us to ensure an ongoing funding stream.”
AP contributed to this story