Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany

Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany

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The Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany (German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

: Luxemburger Abkommen, Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

: הסכם השילומים Heskem HaShillumim) was signed on September 10, 1952, and entered in force on March 27, 1953. According to the Agreement, West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 was to pay Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 for the slave labor
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 and persecution of Jews during the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

, and to compensate for Jewish property that was stolen by the Nazis
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

.

The Claims Conference


According to the website of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or Claims Conference
Claims Conference
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or Claims Conference, represents world Jewry in negotiating for compensation and restitution for victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs...

, "In response to calls from Jewish organizations and the State of Israel, in September 1951 Chancellor Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer was a German statesman. He was the chancellor of the West Germany from 1949 to 1963. He is widely recognised as a person who led his country from the ruins of World War II to a powerful and prosperous nation that had forged close relations with old enemies France,...

 of West Germany addressed his Parliament:
`… unspeakable crimes have been committed in the name of the German people, calling for moral and material indemnity … The Federal Government are prepared, jointly with representatives of Jewry and the State of Israel … to bring about a solution of the material indemnity problem, thus easing the way to the spiritual settlement of infinite suffering.'

One month after Adenauer's speech, Nahum Goldmann
Nahum Goldmann
Nahum Goldmann was a leading Zionist and the founder and longtime president of the World Jewish Congress.-Biography:...

, co-chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel
Jewish Agency for Israel
The Jewish Agency for Israel , also known as the Sochnut or JAFI, served as the organization in charge of immigration and absorption of Jews from the Diaspora into the state of Israel.-History:...

 and president of the World Jewish Congress
World Jewish Congress
The World Jewish Congress was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in August 1936 as an international federation of Jewish communities and organizations...

, convened a meeting in New York City of 23 major Jewish national and international organizations. The participants made clear that these talks were to be limited to discussion of material claims, and thus the organization that emerged from the meeting was called the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany — the Claims Conference. The Board of Directors of the new Conference consisted of groups that took part in its formation, with each member agency designating two members to the Board.

"The Claims Conference had the task of negotiating with the German government a program of indemnification for the material damages to Jewish individuals and to the Jewish people caused by Germany through the Holocaust."

Israel's dilemma


Following the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

, Israel's relations with Germany were very tense. Israel was intent on taking in what remained of European Jewry. Israel was also recovering from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
1948 Arab-Israeli War
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

, and was facing a deep economic crisis which led to a policy of austerity
Austerity in Israel
From 1949 to 1959, the state of Israel was, to a varying extent, under a regime of austerity , during which rationing and similar measures were enforced.-Rationale:...

. Unemployment was very high (especially in the ma'abarot
Ma'abarot
The Ma'abarot were refugee absorption camps in Israel in the 1950s. The Ma'abarot were meant to provide accommodation for the large influx of Jewish refugees and new Olim arriving to the newly independent State of Israel, replacing the less habitable immigrant camps or tent cities...

 camps) and foreign currency reserves were scarce. David Ben-Gurion
David Ben-Gurion
' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

 and his Mapai
Mapai
Mapai was a left-wing political party in Israel, and was the dominant force in Israeli politics until its merger into the Israeli Labor Party in 1968...

 party took a practical approach and argued that accepting the agreement was the only way to sustain the nation's economy. "There are two approaches", he told the Mapai central committee. "One is the ghetto Jew's approach and the other is of an independent people. I don't want to run after a German and spit in his face. I don't want to run after anybody. I want to sit here and build here. I'm not going to go to America to take part in a vigil against Adenauer."

Negotiations


The Negotiations were held between Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett
Moshe Sharett
Moshe Sharett on 15 October 1894, died 7 July 1965) was the second Prime Minister of Israel , serving for a little under two years between David Ben-Gurion's two terms.-Early life:...

 and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer was a German statesman. He was the chancellor of the West Germany from 1949 to 1963. He is widely recognised as a person who led his country from the ruins of World War II to a powerful and prosperous nation that had forged close relations with old enemies France,...

.

In 1951, Israeli authorities made a claim to the four powers occupying post-war Germany regarding compensation and reimbursement, based on the fact that Israel had absorbed and resettled 500,000 Holocaust survivors. They calculated that since absorption had cost 3,000 dollars per person ($ in today dollars), they were owed 1.5 billion dollars ($ in today dollars) by Germany. They also figured that six billion dollars worth of Jewish property had been pillaged by the Nazis, but stressed that the Germans could never make up for what they did with any type of material recompense. Negotiations leading to the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany began in March 1952, and were conducted between representatives of the government of the Federal Republic, the government of the State of Israel, and representatives of the World Jewish Congress, headed by Dr. Goldmann. These discussions led to a bitter controversy in Israel, with the coalition government, headed by David Ben-Gurion
David Ben-Gurion
' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

, claimed that reparations were necessary to restore what was stolen from the victims of the Holocaust.

The agreement was signed by Adenauer and Moshe Sharett on September 10, 1952 in the town hall of Luxembourg
Luxembourg (city)
The city of Luxembourg , also known as Luxembourg City , is a commune with city status, and the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It is located at the confluence of the Alzette and Pétrusse Rivers in southern Luxembourg...

. The German Parliament (Bundestag) agreed March 18, 1953 with a low majority only.

Opposition


Public debate was among the fiercest in Israeli history. Opposition to the agreement came from both the right (Herut
Herut
Herut was the major right-wing political party in Israel from the 1940s until its formal merger into Likud in 1988, and an adherent of Revisionist Zionism.-History:...

 and the General Zionists
General Zionists
The General Zionists were centrists within the Zionist movement and a political party in Israel. Their political arm is an ancestor of the modern-day Likud.-History:...

) and the left (Mapam
Mapam
Mapam was a political party in Israel and is one of the ancestors of the modern-day Meretz party.-History:Mapam was formed by a January 1948 merger of the Hashomer Hatzair Workers Party and Ahdut HaAvoda Poale Zion Movement. The party was originally Marxist-Zionist in its outlook and represented...

) of the political spectrum; both sides argued that accepting reparation payments was the equivalent of forgiving the Nazis for their crimes.

On 5 November 1951, Yaakov Hazan
Yaakov Hazan
-Biography:Hazan was born in 1899 in Brest-Litovsk in the Russian Empire to parents Haim Yehuda H. and Malka Kaminetzki. He studied in a Heder and a Hebrew high school. In 1915, he was among the founders of the "Hebrew Scouts movement" in Poland , where he was also one of first members of...

 of Mapam said in the Knesset: "Nazism
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 is rearing its ugly head again in Germany, and our so-called Western 'friends' are nurturing that Nazism; they are resurrecting Nazi Germany.... Our army, the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

, will be in the same camp as the Nazi army, and the Nazis will begin infiltrating here not as our most terrible enemies, but rather as our allies..."

At a session of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee
The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is a permanent Knesset committee which oversees key Foreign and Defense areas, including the drafting of legislation, supervision over related government ministries and the approval of their budgests...

 in September 1952, Yitzhak Ben-Aharon
Yitzhak Ben-Aharon
Yitzhak Ben-Aharon was an Israeli left-wing politician.He was a Knesset member from the first to the fifth Knessets and in the seventh and eighth, and a former Minister of Transport and General secretary of the Histadrut. The philosopher Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon is his son.-Early life and...

, then a Mapam MK, stated, "I am not assuming that there are people who believe that Germany will pay a total of three billion marks, over a period of 12 years, and that this is no empty promise.... The Israeli government will obtain nothing but a piece of paper referring to three billion marks. And all this is only intended to mislead the public and claim the government has attained....".

The rally


Anticipating the debate in the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 on 7 January 1952, all adjacent roads were blocked. Roadblocks and wire fences were set up around the building and the IDF
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 was alert to suppress a mutiny. The rally, gathered by the agreement's opponents drew 15,000 people and the riots that ensued would be the most significant attempt in Israeli history to overturn a democratically-made Knesset decision. The decision was ultimately accepted by 61-50 margin, but not before the advancing riots interrupted the plenum debate for the first time in the Knesset history.

Following a passionate and dramatic speech, Menachem Begin
Menachem Begin
' was a politician, founder of Likud and the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Before independence, he was the leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on 1 February 1944,...

 led the protesters towards the Knesset. The demonstration turned violent as protesters began throwing stones at the building's windows while the police used force to disperse them. After five hours of riots, the police took control of the situation using hoses and tear gas. Hundreds were arrested; about 200 protesters and 140 policemen were injured.

Further protests


The decision did not end the protests. In October 1952 Dov Shilansky
Dov Shilansky
Dov Shilansky was an Israeli politician and Speaker of the Knesset from 1988 to 1992.-Biography:Dov Shilansky was born in Šiauliai, Lithuania. He survived the Holocaust and joined the Irgun, operating in Rome and Germany. He made aliyah in 1948, arriving in Israel on the Altalena, and served as a...

 was arrested near the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel
The Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel is the political head of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The position is one of the most important in the Israeli cabinet after Prime Minister and Defense Minister...

 office, carrying a pack of dynamite
Dynamite
Dynamite is an explosive material based on nitroglycerin, initially using diatomaceous earth , or another absorbent substance such as powdered shells, clay, sawdust, or wood pulp. Dynamites using organic materials such as sawdust are less stable and such use has been generally discontinued...

. In his trial he was accused of being a member of an underground organization against the Reparations Agreement and was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Several parcel bombs were sent to Adenauer and others targets, one of which killed a sapper
Sapper
A sapper, pioneer or combat engineer is a combatant soldier who performs a wide variety of combat engineering duties, typically including, but not limited to, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences, general construction and building, as well as road and airfield...

 who handled it.

Implementation


Despite the protests, the agreement was signed in September of that year, and West Germany paid Israel a sum of 3 billion marks over the next fourteen years; 450 million marks were paid to the World Jewish Congress. The payments were made to the State of Israel as the heir to those victims who had no surviving family. The money was invested in the country's infrastructure and played an important role in establishing the economy of the new state
Economy of Israel
The economy of Israel is a technologically advanced market economy, including a rapidly-developing high-tech and service sectors. As of 2010, Israel has the 24th largest economy in the world, and ranks 15th among 169 world nations on the UN's Human Development Index, which places it in the category...

. The reparations would become a decisive part of Israel's income, comprising as high as 87.5% of the state income in 1956.

Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem is Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by the Knesset, Israel's parliament....

 noted that "in the 1990s, Jews began making claims for property stolen in Eastern Europe. Various groups also began investigating what happened to money deposited in Swiss banks by Jews outside of Switzerland who were later murdered in the Holocaust, and what happened to money deposited by various Nazis in Swiss banks. In addition, individual companies (many of them based in Germany) began to be pressured by survivor groups to compensate former forced laborers. Among them are Deutsche Bank AG
Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank AG is a global financial service company with its headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. It employs more than 100,000 people in over 70 countries, and has a large presence in Europe, the Americas, Asia Pacific and the emerging markets...

, Siemens AG
Siemens AG
Siemens AG is a German multinational conglomerate company headquartered in Munich, Germany. It is the largest Europe-based electronics and electrical engineering company....

, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)
BMW
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG is a German automobile, motorcycle and engine manufacturing company founded in 1916. It also owns and produces the Mini marque, and is the parent company of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. BMW produces motorcycles under BMW Motorrad and Husqvarna brands...

, Volkswagen AG
Volkswagen
Volkswagen is a German automobile manufacturer and is the original and biggest-selling marque of the Volkswagen Group, which now also owns the Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, SEAT, and Škoda marques and the truck manufacturer Scania.Volkswagen means "people's car" in German, where it is...

, and Adam Opel GmbH
Opel
Adam Opel AG, generally shortened to Opel, is a German automobile company founded by Adam Opel in 1862. Opel has been building automobiles since 1899, and became an Aktiengesellschaft in 1929...

. In response, early in 1999, the German government proclaimed the establishment of a fund with monies from these companies to help needy Holocaust survivors. A similar fund was set up by the Swiss, as was a Hungarian fund for compensation of Holocaust victims and their heirs. At the close of the 1990s, discussions of compensation were held by insurance companies that had before the war insured Jews who were later murdered by the Nazis. These companies include Allianz
Allianz
SE is a global financial services company headquartered in Munich, Germany. Its core business and focus is insurance. As of 2010, it was the world's 12th-largest financial services group and 23rd-largest company according to a composite measure by Forbes magazine.Its Allianz Global Investors...

, AXA
AXA
AXA S.A. is a French global insurance group headquartered in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. AXA is a conglomerate of independently run businesses, operated according to the laws and regulations of many different countries. The AXA group of companies engage in life, health and other forms of...

, Assicurazioni Generali
Assicurazioni Generali
Assicurazioni Generali S.p.A. is the largest insurance company in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. It has its headquarters in Trieste...

, Zürich Financial Services Group
Zurich Financial Services
Zurich Financial Services AG is a major financial services group based in Zurich, Switzerland.-History:The Company was founded in 1872 as subsidiary of the Schweiz Marine Insurance Company under the name Versicherung Verein...

, Winterthur, and Baloise Insurance Group
Bâloise
Bâloise Holding AG is a Swiss insurance holding company headquartered in Basel. The company employs approximately 7,500 employees across Europe and is the third largest Swiss all-industry insurance service provider for individuals and businesses.-History:...

. With the help of information about Holocaust victims made available by Yad Vashem, an international commission under former US Secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, has been trying to uncover the names of those who had been insured and died in the Holocaust. The World Jewish Restitution Organization was created to organize these efforts. On behalf of US citizens, the US Foreign Claims Settlement Commission reached agreements with the German government in 1998 and 1999 to compensate Holocaust victims who immigrated to the US after the war."

Reopened claims


In 2007, Israeli MK Rafi Eitan
Rafi Eitan
Rafael "Rafi" Eitan is an Israeli politician and former intelligence officer. Today he leads Gil and is a former Minister of Pensioner Affairs. In the past, he was in charge of the Mossad operation that led to the capture of Adolf Eichmann...

 made suggestions that were interpreted as a claim to reopen the agreement, although he insisted that he merely intended to "establish a German-Israeli work team that would examine how Germany could help the financially struggling survivors". German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück
Peer Steinbrück
Peer Steinbrück is a German social democratic politician. From 2005 to 2009 he served as German Federal Minister of Finance in the cabinet of Angela Merkel.- Early political career, Minister President :...

 originally argued Germany would not consider expanding the agreement, but later German government spokesman Thomas Steg said that Germany was willing to discuss the possibility of making extra pension payments to Holocaust survivors if the Israeli government makes an official request.

Further claims in 2009


In 2009, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz
Yuval Steinitz
Yuval Steinitz , is an Israeli academic and politician who has been a Knesset member for Likud since 1999. He is now the Finance Minister of Israel.-Biography:...

 announced that he will demand a further €450 million to €1 billion in reparations from Germany on behalf of some 30,000 Israeli forced labor survivors. Israel has also sought large discounts on the purchase of two German-built MEKO
MEKO
The MEKO family of warships was developed by the German company Blohm + Voss.MEKO is a registered trademark. The portmanteau stands for "Mehrzweck-Kombination" . It is a concept in modern naval shipbuilding based on modularity of armament, electronics and other equipment, aiming at ease of...

 warships.

See also

  • Claims Conference
    Claims Conference
    The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or Claims Conference, represents world Jewry in negotiating for compensation and restitution for victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs...

  • International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims
    International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims
    The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims was established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in August 1998 to identify, settle, and pay individual Holocaust era insurance claims at no cost to claimants....

  • Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future"
    Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future"
    The Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future" , is a German Federal organisation with the purpose of making financial compensation available "to former forced laborers and to those affected by other injustices from the National Socialist period"...

  • Wiedergutmachung
    Wiedergutmachung
    The German word Wiedergutmachung after World War II refers to the reparations that the German government agreed to pay to the direct survivors of the Holocaust, and to those who were made to work as forced labour or who otherwise became victims of the Nazis.The noun Wiedergutmachung is the general...


Further reading

  • Beker, Avi. 1970. Unmasking National Myths: Europeans Challenge Their History. Jerusalem: Institute of the World Jewish Congress.
  • Bower, Tom. 1997. Nazi Gold: The Full Story of the Fifty-Year Swiss-Nazi Conspiracy to Steal Billions from Europe's Jews and Holocaust Survivors, . New York: Harper Collins.
  • Carpozi, George. 1999. Nazi Gold: The Real Story of How the World Plundered Jewish Treasures. Far Hills: New Horizon.
  • Finkelstein, Norman G.. 2000. The Holocaust Industry - Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering. London/New York: Verso.
  • Colonomos Ariel and Andrea Armstrong "German Reparations to the Jews after World War II A Turning Point in the History of Reparations". In Pablo de Greiff ed. The Handbook of Reparations, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006
  • Geller, Jay Howard. 2005. Jews in Post-Holocaust Germany. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Goldmann, Nahum. 1970. Staatsmann ohne Staat (Statesman Without a State, autobiography). Cologne: Kiepenheuer-Witsch.
  • Goldmann, Nahum. 1969. The Autobiography of Nahum Goldmann;: Sixty Years of Jewish Life. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • Goldmann, Nahum. 1978. The Jewish Paradox. Grosset & Dunlap.
  • Goldmann, Nahum. 1982. Mein Leben als deutscher Jude [My Life as a German Jew]. Munich: Langen-Müller.
  • Levine, Itamar. 1997. The Fate of Jewish Stolen Properties: the Cases of Austria and the Netherlands. Jerusalem: Institute of the World Jewish Congress.
  • Sagi, Nana. 1986. German Reparations: A History of the Negotiations. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Sayer, Ian and Douglas Botting. 1984. Nazi Gold: The Story of the World's Greatest Robbery and its Aftermath. London.
  • Shafir, Shlomo. 1999. Ambiguous Relations: The American Jewish Community and Germany since 1945. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
  • Vincent, Isabel. 1997. Hitler's Silent Partners: Swiss Banks, Nazi Gold, and the Pursuit of Justice. New York: Morrow.
  • Ziegler, Jean. 1997. The Swiss, the Gold, and the Dead: How Swiss Bankers Helped Finance the Nazi War Machine. New York: Harcourt Brace.
  • Zweig, Ronald W. 1987. German Reparations And The Jewish World : A History Of The Claims Conference. Boulder: Westview Press.

External links