Belgium in $170m Holocaust payout

Money to be paid to compensate for theft of possessions from Jews in World War Two.

    Nearly 6,000 victims and relatives
    have claimed compensation [AFP]

    Relatives of Holocaust victims welcomed the move, but said that the Belgian state should now look deeper into its responsibility for a policy of discrimination and the deportation of Jews to concentration camps.


    Judith Kronfeld, director of the Belgian Judaism Foundation, said: "Indemnificating is not all. We need to find out the responsibilities of some Belgian personalities in the discrimination, persecution... and deportation of Jews and Roma."

    Eli Ringer, the co-chair of the committee on the restitution of Jewish assets, said: "In a certain way, justice has been done. Unfortunately there are people who never came back [from the Nazi concentration camps].

    "So this money will be for the Jewish community and will help us to bring people to Auschwitz, [pay for] education, etc. This is very, very important to us.''

    Micha Eisenstorg, president of the Union of the Jewish Deportees of Belgium, said he was satisfied with the work of the indemnification committee, although the money handed out was merely "symbolic".

    Nearly 6,000 victims and relatives have claimed compensation, with 80 per cent of them granted sums ranging from $600 to over $30,000 to cover stolen property, unpaid wages, furniture, jewellery and businesses.

    In some cases, the loss could not be determined, with a lost business, for example, resulting in a modest $2,250 lump sum.


    After the Nazi invasion in May 1940, the Belgian government fled to Britain, but ordered civil servants who stayed to work with the Nazis to keep services running and prevent the economic breakdown that occurred during the German occupation in World War One.

    This often led to Belgian officials collaborating with the persecution of Jews, although the resistance movement was also strong in Belgium and underground networks set up to save Jews were more successful than in many other occupied nations.

    Lucien Buysse, head of the indemnification commission, said: "This law has nothing to do with moral compensation... It is on material goods that have been stolen."

    However, Isaie Gruszow, born in 1939, complained during a news conference that his family had not been adequately compensated for its losses, saying a few hundred dollars did not cover the rare books and jewellery taken.

    Of the total restitution payout, $70m will come from the Belgian authorities, $85m from banks and most of the remainder from insurance companies.

    Last year, Guy Verhofstadt, the country's prime minister, apologised for Belgian authorities' involvement in the deportation of Jews to the concentration camps.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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