Germany Pays Compensation to WWII Child Refugees

Every survivor will receive about $2,800.

The German Government has consented to make a single lump sum payment to the Jewish Kindertransport survivors. These are children who evacuated to the United Kingdom to escape the then expanding clutches of Nazis before the beginning of the Second World War. The children were sent to other places as well.

An announcement made by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany confirmed the payment of approximately $2,800 to individuals who escaped Nazi captivity. The Kindertransport operation took place over a period of about two years, from December 1938 to May 1940. About 10,000 children below 17 years of age were relocated from Nazi-administered Germany and parts of Europe under German occupation to the UK. The convoy was made possible by a web of many Jewish groups operating all over Europe and through financing by British sponsors. The children were permitted to enter Britain on strictly temporary travel visas. Subsequently, sponsor families took care of the younger children while the older ones were sent to orphanages or joined the employed workforce. Many of those children would never see their families again.

The $2,800 payment was in the works for about three years. The payment will be made this month, the 80th anniversary of the first of many Kindertransport operations. According to Stuart Eizenstat, the special negotiator sent to the Claims Conference, the money will go to about 1,000 Kindertransport survivors. About 50 percent of the remaining survivors live in the United Kingdom. The money, Eizenstat pointed out, is less about compensation but more about a symbolic gesture. He said the children went through extreme traumatic conditions which they suffered from their whole life. They were forever cut off from their parents and everyone they knew as family. Nothing can replace the coziness of family life which these children never enjoyed.

The Kindertransport, according to historians, was one of those rare operations which successfully saved Jews from the clutches of Nazis. The politics around the operation were complicated. The rise of the German National Socialist Party made life harder for German Jews. They understood what could happen to them and many Jews tried to escape Germany before the Second World War. Such was their plight that delegates from a total of 32 nations met in France in July 1938. The result was non-productive, with many countries continuing to keep the cap on immigrants of Jewish ancestry. It was only after the Kristallnacht strategy that Great Britain agreed to accept Jewish children.

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