Forced laborers now can claim wider pensions from Germany

Forced laborers now can claim wider pensions from Germany

Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene holds a doctorate in history and has taught at Yeshiva University, Queens College, and Upsala College.

Expanded pension compensation for Holocaust survivors who labored for the Nazis is now firmly rooted in both Israeli and German legislation.

Fifty-seven years ago, the German Compensation Act was enacted. Now, over and above any other reparations, the Ghetto Workers Compensation Law (ZRBG) recognizes the work survivors conducted for the Germans while they were at forced labor in the ghettos, factories and labor camps. German law now recognizes it as labor that entitles them to social insurance and therefore grants them eligibility under this law for social security pension.

Experienced legal experts at Beit Ahava VeTorah will fight for the full compensation of any Holocaust survivors and heirs. They understand how significant knowing the details and particular procedures may be. They are the most knowledgeable professionals, and understand why this is a great mitzvah.

Since it was established in 1971, Eliahu Weber and Co. has focused on the rights of Holocaust survivors and maintained a legal team in Israel and Germany, and has now joined forces with Beit Ahava VeTorah throughout the United States and Canada.

For decades, the firm filed thousands of legal cases against the federal government, forcing the German government to acknowledge Jews’ rights to receive pensions from Germany.

As of the early 1990s, the firm continued to work on various legislations, and compensation programs such as the Swiss bank litigation, ICHEIC – life insurance policies, Article 2 Jewish Claims Conference fund, and the Israeli finance ministry (the Israeli compensation arrangements). It was among the leading firms to sue the federal government, causing Germany to create the slave labor fund in 2000.

Throughout this period, members of the firm acted as external consultants to both members of the Israeli Knesset and the government, assisting in clarifying complicated legal issues relating to German and Israeli law.

Due to several key Supreme Court decisions, more than 30,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel were recognized by the government as eligible to receive a monthly pension. Furthermore, the firm led the largest ever retroactive case against the Israeli finance ministry. It resulted in a Supreme Court decision ordering the government to pay retroactive payments to some 20,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel.

In 1975 the treaty for Social Security recognition between the Federal Republic of Germany and the state of Israel came into being. This treaty was the legal basis for the creation of compensation for Holocaust victims under the General Social Security law.

It is important to note that these arrangements are external to existing compensation laws, and thus they are additional pensions that are paid to survivors. The ghetto pension law is based upon a Supreme Court decision made possible by the firm in July 1997.

The firm continued to bring more cases to the Supreme Court and is pleased that the federal government has decided to bring the issue of ghetto pensions to an end, and recognize all cases as of 1997.

Beit Ahava VeTorah, in collaboration with Eliahu Weber and Co., now provides its services and expertise to American and Canadian survivors and heirs, and is confident that they will obtain their well-deserved rights and compensation. Through its work and experience its can help many survivors and their heirs go through this detailed, long and complicated process.

Because of the complexity of the federal law, and the fact that these pensions are regulated under the general federal law, this legal advice for the claimants is essential, and might result in a difference in both the size of the pension and the retroactive payments.

If a survivor has not filed an application for a German pension in the past but meets the requirements, he or she should fill out the pension application form and start the process as soon as possible. If a survivor already has filed an application and was rejected according to the previous interpretation of the law, he or she can explore the case and possibly get a new decision. If a benefit already has been claimed or paid according to the ordinance of recognition, the claim for a pension under the ZRBG does not conflict with that.

By law, victims of national socialist persecution can receive a payment in recognition of labor in a ghetto which did not constitute forced labor. The claim according to the ordinance of recognition, does not replace the pension application under the ZRBG.

The ZRBG defines the conditions for making pensions payable for the Holocaust survivors who labored in a ghetto that was in a territory occupied by the Germans or under Nazi influence.

Since the federal social court has now recognized the periods of contributions completed in the ghetto, the changes in the interpretation of the ZRBG law are allowing more survivors to claim their compensation.

A persecuted person who was only in the ghetto now can be recognized under the ZRBG. That was the first time ghetto workers were entitled to pensions. A survivor whose application had been rejected in the past or who waived an application can now receive a pension. Even someone who is already getting a pension might receive an increased pension.

A survivor who wishes to claim his or her compensation must prove that he or she was forced to live in a ghetto, in a territory that was occupied by the German Reich or under Nazi influence. The stay in a concentration camp or work camp is not covered by the ZRBG, but these periods can be accounted for as substitute periods after reaching the age of 14.

While the ghetto worker’s law was enacted during 2002, it was fully implemented in 2011. Until this day, there are still many Holocaust survivors and heirs who did not even apply to claim their right for compensation.

Since an agreement was never signed between Germany and the United States, most survivors who are U.S. citizens never received any compensation. That is why U.S. citizens now will be entitled to receive an increased payment of 5 percent per year as of their 65th year.

The legal team, both here and in Germany, will strive to get the maximum award and use their experience and expertise to get survivors their well-deserved compensation as soon as possible.

On September 20, 2013, the German Bundestadt called upon the federal government to submit legislation that would allow all applicants to receive a retroactive payment as of July 18, 1997.

Heirs who are entitled to inherit from a survivor who died after June 2002 and received an old age pension will receive a retroactive payment from the time the pension should have been paid until the time that the survivor died.

Please note that this is not a class action suit. Each claim will be filed on behalf of the individual survivor.

For more information, call (888)-888-2180, email, or go to There is no upfront application fee.

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