Founded in 1951 by representatives of 23 major international Jewish organizations, the Claims Conference negotiates for and disburses funds to individuals and organizations and seeks the return of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust.
As a result of negotiations with the Claims Conference since 1952, the German government has paid more than $90 billion in indemnification to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis.
The first meeting of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) included 23 major Jewish organizations coming together to consider landmark negotiations with the West German government for the suffering and losses experienced by the Jewish people during the Holocaust.
The Claims Conference stressed that no amount of money “can make good the destruction of human life and cultural values,” or atone for the systematic annihilation of the Jewish people.
Signed by West Germany and the Claims Conference (and Israel in parallel), the agreements led to legislation for indemnification for the material damages to Jewish individuals and to the Jewish people caused by Germany during the Holocaust.
The agreement was the first of many secured by the Claims Conference in order to obtain a small measure of justice for Jewish victims of Nazi persecution globally.
Established in response to Germany’s refusal to accept responsibility for claims coming from Jewish Nazi victims from Austria.
The committee has negotiated for pensions, restitution, home care, emergency assistance programs and benefits for Holocaust survivors from Austria and heirs.
The Claims Conference is a founding benefactor, providing 50 percent of the funding for the original building.
Agreements were reached with several German companies that used Jews as slave laborers including Krupp, Siemens-Halske, Dynamit Nobel, Daimler-Benz and Volkswagen.
In 1975, negotiations began with Germany to compensate victims of Nazi persecution who were unable to apply for compensation from West Germany while behind the Iron Curtain, subsequently missing the 1969 application deadline for West Germany’s Federal Indemnification Law (BEG).
In 1980, the negotiations led to West Germany creating a “Hardship Fund.”
Eighty thousand people were originally expected to benefit from the fund, but as of 2017, over 495,000 survivors have been paid a total of approximately $1.5 billion.
The Claims Conference negotiated for the return of unclaimed individual and communal Jewish property in former East Germany. Without this process, unclaimed Jewish assets would have remained with the “aryanizers” or reverted to the German government.
Nearly $1 billion has been given by the Claims Conference to heirs and further funds from property sales have generated over $2 billion for home care, medicine, food and other welfare services for vulnerable Holocaust survivors as well as to support Shoah education.
The Claims Conference secured the Article 2 Fund agreement in 1992, to ensure that unified Germany would pay monthly pensions to Holocaust survivors who were in camps, ghettos and hiding. In 1998, the Claims Conference secured the establishment of a parallel fund for Holocaust survivors living in former communist countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, The Central and Eastern European Fund. More than 125,000 survivors have received pension payments totaling approximately $5.3 billion.
An agreement was reached on the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport, to provide compensation payments for survivors.
After Kristallnacht, the situation for Jews in Germany was reaching crisis proportions. Jewish families began urgently searching for any avenue to get their children to safety. Over 10,000 children were saved from death when parents, who were desperate to save their children from the horrors of life under the Nazis, found refuge for them in England – often tragically relinquishing their babies and infants to the care of older children for the possibility of getting them to safety. Most of the children never saw their parents again.
In 2019, the Claims Conference obtained an agreement on a Surviving Spouse Payment. Previously, monthly pensions under the Claims Conference Article 2 and Central and Eastern European Funds, often a major source of a couple’s income, ended when the survivor passed. This new agreement allows a surviving spouse, as of January 1, 2020, to receive a payment for a period of 9 months to aid them with funeral expenses, living expenses and other financial adjustments.
In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Claims Conference established a Holocaust survivor emergency fund of $4.32 million to help address emergency needs worldwide. Beginning in early April, the emergency fund was made available to the Claims Conference network of social service agency grantees. The fund was established to reinforce an array of services already in place, such as delivering meals and medicine, assisting survivors with rent and utility payments, and expanding virtual socialization programs and volunteer programs to help alleviate isolation and loneliness.
In 2020, the Claims Conference reached an agreement with the German Government for two supplemental payments, each
of €1,200 (approximately $1,400), for Holocaust survivors eligible for the Hardship Fund who do not receive a pension as compensation for persecution during the Holocaust.
In 2023, the Claims Conference will distribute approximately $562 million in direct compensation to over 115,000 survivors in 84 countries and territories and will allocate approximately $750 million in grants to over 300 social service agencies worldwide that provide vital services for Holocaust survivors, such as home care, food and medicine.