A German program to compensate Holocaust survivors for their suffering in World War II has been expanded to cover around 6,500 more survivors, including thousands of Jews who survived the siege of Leningrad. They will receive the equivalent of $435 a month for the rest of their lives under an agreement between the German government and the Claims Conference, which handles claims on behalf of survivors, the New York Times reports. The $767 million agreement also covers around 1,200 survivors from Romania and 800 from France. The pension payments will be made retroactively from July.
Stuart Eizenstat, the group's top negotiator, said German authorities argued that non-Jews also suffered during the 872-day siege. "We were able to show them Nazi fliers that were dropped that said that Jews were the cause of the siege," he said. "So their level of persecution was greater." Eizenstat, a former US ambassador to the European Union, praised the German negotiators, who were born long after the end of the war, for recognizing their "moral responsibility" to survivors. The Claims Conference says around 50% of Holocaust survivors live in poverty—and many suffer more health issues than other elderly people because they were deprived of nutrition as children.
An estimated 1 million Leningrad residents died during the siege. Jewish survivor Nonna Revzina was 5 years old when Nazi forces encircled the city in what was then the Soviet Union. She tells the AP that she recalls her mother taking her father's body away on a sled after he died of hunger and illness in 1942. Revzina, 85, now lives in a Berlin home for Jewish senior citizens. She says the extra 375 euros a month will make a big difference. "The pension is very helpful for me," she said. "I like going to cafes. I can do that more often now.” Eizenstat says the group will keep trying to secure benefits until "the last survivor breathes their last breath." (Read more Holocaust stories.)