Holocaust Compensation Row Germany Refuses to Negotiate with Israel over New Claims

The German government is refusing to negotiate with Israel over new compensation claims for Holocaust survivors. The dispute is causing tension between Israel and the Jewish Claims Conference -- which Germany says is its correct negotiating partner.

The ongoing argument between Israel and Germany over new Holocaust compensation claims  has taken another turn after Germany officially refused to negotiate with the Israeli government over payments for survivors.

For more than half a century, the Jewish Claims Conference has been responsible for dealing with the German government over compensation claims made by victims of the Holocaust. In 1965, Germany signed a treaty agreeing to pay individual victims; survivors had to file their claims before 1969. Since then, Germany has paid out over €63.2 billion -- including €1.5 billion in direct payments to the Israeli government.

But recently Israel, where the majority of the world's Holocaust survivors now live, has found itself with a growing bill for the care of elderly survivors. Many of them emigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union long after the deadline for making claims was past. Israel says the costs for their care far outstrip Germany's past payments.

Israeli Minister of Pensioners' Affairs Rafi Eitan met with the German ambassador to Israel, Harald Kindermann, in December to demand that Germany take a series of steps to address the shortfall.

The response was swift. Germany came back with a decisive nein, refusing to negotiate with the Israeli government over compensation claims. Officials suggested that, seeing as the multi-national Jewish Claims Conference had been responsible for coordinating claims for the last 56 years, opening up talks with individual countries would set a bad precedent.

The quarrel has opened a deep divide between the JCC and the Israeli government. Eitan has accused the JCC of denying Holocaust survivors of millions of euros.

The JCC, in turn, has accused the Israeli government of letting survivors down. In the last decade, JCC official Seev Faktor says, the JCC "is the only organization that has helped deserving survivors in Israel in any meaningful and lasting way."