German government Social Security pensions have been available since 1997 to Holocaust survivors who were employed for some form of wages during their internment in Nazi ghettos annexed to the Third Reich. The law, formally known by its German acronym of ZRBG, was further expanded in 2002.
Although the Claims Conference is not involved in the administration of this so-called Ghetto Pension, it assists survivors in understanding the program and its complex regulations. In addition, the Claims Conference closely monitors the implementation of the ZRBG by Germany’s Social Security network, and is at the forefront of efforts to improve this program.
To that end, the Claims Conference has worked with the governments of the United States and Israel on this issue. The Claims Conference met with Germany’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare several times to express concerns about implementation of the legislation. The exchanges yielded some limited positive results but major issues remained unresolved. Out of 70,000 applicants, 61,000 were rejected. A series of court decisions greatly restricted the possibility for applicants to receive payments.
But in 2009, rulings by the German Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht) allowed reconsideration of claims for ghetto pensions from tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors previously rejected. Following this 2009 court decision, the Claims Conference pressed for an expedited review of these applications. Approximately 56,000 previously denied applications from Holocaust survivors were slated for re-examination by the German pension system.
The National Pension Board announced that if applicants were found to be entitled to a pension, in accordance with the court rulings, the payments generally would be backdated to January 1, 2005, but not longer than four years. Applicants whose Ghetto Pension claims were denied did not need to request the re-opening of their claims.
|Status of Re-Opened Applications for German Social Security Payments for Work in Ghettos|
|Total of reopened cases||
Cannot be resolved*
|January 12, 2012||56,753||25,153||375||14,322||16,903|
*These include cases in which claimants were deceased and no legal successors were found, or where no contact could be made with the person concerned.
Regulation 17(13) of the Income Supplement Regulations (amendment 5764-2003) excludes ZRBG payments from calculations relating to eligibility for Income Supplement benefits from the National Insurance Institutes.
Article 224(d) (3) (b) of the National Insurance Law (amendment 129, 5771-2011) excludes ZRBG payments from calculations relating to eligibility for Nursing Hours from the National Insurance Institutes. That recent amendment has been approved by the Israeli Knesset on August 3, 2011.
Regulation 4.8- 3.1.2(2)e of the Social Workers Regulations (amendment 5769-2009) partially excludes every Holocaust-related pension, including under the ZRBG, from calculations relating to participatory payment for needy elderly homes under the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Ghetto Payments Protection in USA
All Holocaust-related compensation and restitution payments in the United States are protected by 1994 federal legislation that excludes them from calculations relating to eligibility for federal benefits. The legislation (H.R. 1873 or Public Law 103-286) stated that payments made to individuals because of their status as victims of Nazi persecution are to be excluded from income and resources in determining both eligibility for and the amount of benefits or services to be provided under any Federal or federally assisted program which provides benefits or services based on need such as, but not limited to, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps and Federally subsidized Housing programs. Additionally, Holocaust compensation payments are not taxable. See our web pages under Payment Benefits and Tax Exemptions.
Also note that payments under Germany’s special ZRBG law ("Ghetto Pension") or one-time payments awarded to Holocaust survivors through the German government BADV office ("Ghetto Fund") fall under the exempt categories. For detailed analysis of this issue, see the webpage and Fact Sheet authored by the Evelyn Frank Legal Resources Program of Selfhelp Community Services, Inc. of New York.
The German Government has announced that payments under the special Social Security law -ZRBG for Holocaust Survivors ("Ghetto Pension") are not subject to taxation in Germany. This exemption applies to monthly payments as well as to lump-sum retroactive payments. No tax declarations need to be submitted in Germany for these payments. The German Embassies in relevant countries have been informed. Countries with a bilateral tax agreement with Germany are also being alerted.
The Claims Conference is not involved in the administration, implementation or processing of applications for the Ghetto Pension or the Ghetto Fund. The information presented herein is intended for information purposes only and solely as a general guide. The information is not intended as legal advice. It is a summary of specific issues and does not represent a definitive or complete statement of the programs and policies of the agencies or governments mentioned. The information may not address the special needs, interests and circumstances of individual recipients. Individual situations differ and recipients are urged to seek individual advice. Individuals seeking specific information on a program are urged to contact the relevant program or to consult their social service agency or help center representative. While the Claims Conference provides information on a general basis to various help and assistance centers, each help and assistance c enter is solely responsible for the advice provided by it. To the best of our knowledge the information is correct as of the date of this document and this information may change subsequent to the said date – February 1, 2012