Reparations Finally In The Mail
08/06/04
Staff Writer
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Tens of thousands of Jews who were forced by the Nazis to perform slave labor each will receive a check of about $3,000 this week, the last half of the $7,500 the German government and industry agreed to pay them as part of the German Foundation settlement with survivors in 2000. The second payment was mailed and wired Monday to 130,681 survivors. The first payment took three years to process and mail. “I take the money they give me, but I still hate them,” Andrew Breuer of Rego Park, Queens, said of the Germans. “The money is helpful, but I’m thinking of my mother and two sisters, 22 and 15” who were killed in Auschwitz. The payments were split into two installments to ensure that all qualifying survivors received the same amount. They were made possible earlier this year when the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which handled the payments, negotiated with the German Foundation for the foundation to pay $174 million in interest on the $1.1 billion settlement. A total of 285,091 people applied for the payments and 149,110 were approved, including the heirs of qualifying survivors who died after the settlement was agreed to in principle on Feb. 15, 1999. Since that date 18,429, or 12 percent, of the qualifying survivors died. In researching claims, the Claims Conference developed a comprehensive list of virtually every place where Jews were incarcerated during the Holocaust. It searched 150 Holocaust-related archives in 30 countries, and scoured paper and microfilm lists — many of which were handwritten and not alphabetized — to provide verification of claims to the German Foundation. The search made it possible for 30,000 survivors to receive payments who otherwise lacked any documentation of their persecution. Negotiations by the Claims Conference also led the German Foundation to agree to pay those who were persecuted in camps in Bulgaria, Romania, North Africa and Vichy France. And where no documentation could be found, claimants were invited to describe their persecution experiences, statements that in many cases constituted proof of eligibility for payment. The $7,500 from the German Foundation, plus about $1,450 from the Swiss bank settlement, means that slave and forced laborers will receive about $8,950. Breuer, who survived a Hungarian labor battalion and a Budapest ghetto, said he escaped from the Nazis several times and used aliases to avoid detection. He said he masqueraded as a Nazi officer on several occasions, even using the ruse to get his cousin freed from detention just hours before he was to be executed. Breuer said he believes his masquerade saved the lives of 100 Jews, including his two younger brothers. In addition, Breuer said he worked for a while in the Swiss consulate in Budapest and convinced one of the workers there to give him 80 Swiss false identity papers that he distributed to Jews seeking to avoid deportation. “Sometimes I posed as a Nazi, sometimes as a Swiss consulate employee, and sometimes I worked with the Judenrat,” the Nazi-appointed Jewish council that supervised the ghettos, he said. Breuer said the money he is to receive this week would help to supplement the pension he receives. He came to the United States in 1952 and worked manufacturing lingerie.

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