July 20, 2008
In an historic breakthrough, the Claims Conference has negotiated one-time payments from Germany for certain Jewish victims of the Nazi siege of Leningrad.
In recent negotiations, the German government has agreed to include these Jewish victims in the Claims Conference Hardship Fund, provided they meet the program’s other eligibility criteria. The program issues a one-time payment of €2,556.
It is expected that this agreement will lead to the payment to thousands of Jewish victims of Nazism from the former Soviet Union now living in Israel, the United States, Germany and other Western countries. It is the first time that the persecution of Jews who lived through the 900-day siege of Leningrad has been recognized by Germany.
Because of the Claims Conference negotiations, certain Jewish persons who stayed in Leningrad at some time between September 1941 and January 1944 or fled from there during this period may receive a one-time Hardship Fund payment, if they meet the other requirements of the Hardship Fund.
As German forces advanced toward Leningrad in 1941, Jewish residents tried to move as close as possible to the center of the city. Those Jews who were unable to flee from the Nazis and stayed in territories that became occupied were tortured and shot. The largest massacre occurred in Pushkin, a suburb of Leningrad. The 800 Jews of Pushkin were led into the cellars of Yekaterininsky Palace. They were then shot in groups in the neighboring park.
In planning for the siege, Hitler had described Leningrad as a center of Jewish-Bolshevik intelligentsia. Before the war, approximately 300,000 Jews lived in Leningrad and the surrounding area. If the Germans had fully occupied the city, they would have all been killed.
The Germans surrounded Leningrad in September 1941. During the siege, the Nazis cut all water and power supplies while subjecting residents to constant air attacks and artillery bombardment. The population of about 3 million was left to starve and freeze to death. An estimated 1 million residents of the city died.
The Nazis disseminated anti-Semitic flyers throughout the city during the siege, telling residents that the Jews were responsible for their misery and that the Germans were going to liberate the country from the rule of Bolsheviks and Jews.
The Hardship Fund, established in 1980 after five years of Claims Conference negotiations, provides a one-time payment of €2,556 to certain Jewish victims of Nazism from former Soviet bloc countries who emigrated to the West after 1969, which was the application deadline for the West German Indemnification Laws (BEG). West German compensation laws enacted from 1953 through 1965 excluded from eligibility victims of Nazi persecution resident in the Eastern Block countries and the Soviet Union.
West Germany created this fund only on the condition that the Claims Conference, rather than the government, administer applications and payments pursuant to German government guidelines. Based on the original size of the fund, it was estimated that 80,000 Holocaust survivors would benefit from it. The collapse of Communism and subsequent Jewish emigration from Soviet bloc countries greatly increased the number of Jewish victims of Nazism eligible for payments. To date, approximately 320,000 Jewish victims of Nazism have been approved under the Hardship Fund, with more than $850 million paid.
The Claims Conference continues to approve more than 5,000 applications each year for Hardship Fund payments.
Applicants should note that the full criteria for the Hardship Fund, including this change in criteria, can be found on this website under Hardship Fund: Eligibility/How to apply, or by contacting the Claims Conference offices in New York, Tel Aviv or Frankfurt. Please note that no second applications can be made to the Hardship Fund.