Germany agrees to compensate Holocaust survivors from Algeria

(CNN) — Germany has agreed to pay compensation to Jews who suffered persecution in Algeria during World War II.

This is the first time that Jews who lived in Algeria between July 1940 and November 1942 have been compensated by the German government for their suffering under the Nazi-collaborating French Vichy regime.

Approximately 25,000 people are eligible for a one-off payment of €2,556 ($3,184), according to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, an organization that negotiates with the German government on behalf of Holocaust survivors.

Germany’s Ministry of Finance confirmed the agreement.

On Monday, the Claims Conference opened registration centers across France, where an estimated 20,000 Algerian Jews reside, with the first payments expected to be made in July.

Vichy regime

During World War II, northern France was directly occupied by Nazi Germany, and southern France was ruled by the Vichy regime.

In Algeria, which was controlled by the Vichy government on behalf of the Nazis, Jews were stripped of their jobs in sectors such as education, media and finance. They were prohibited from owning businesses and their children were excluded from schools.

Jews were banned from working for the government or the military and were not allowed to work for businesses that had public contracts.

Children were placed in segregated schools with Jewish teachers, and older Jews were sent to labor camps to work on the pan-Saharan railroad line, with camps set up in the Algerian cities of Berrouaghia, Djelfa, and Bedeau.

Claims group: Acknowledgment at last

Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, says the deal is the last to be struck with a single large group of Holocaust survivors and will at last provide some of acknowledgment of their suffering.

“For many, many people, as they age, of course they look back at their lives and when they look back at their childhood, they remember the darkest part of the 20th century, just terrible memories,” Schneider told CNN.

Many other groups of Holocaust survivors have been acknowledged and compensated over the years, and Schneider said the lack of recognition for Jews in Algeria until now had been “a real psychological blow.”

“When you have all these survivors around you and they’ve been acknowledged by Germany and you’re not, that experience they’re not validating is so central to your identity, that really creates another psychological trauma.

“For people who are very poor, €2,556 obviously helps. But it’s also about the historical record in an era of fake news, and facts not being facts, and certainly Holocaust denial, which we think will only increase as survivors pass away.”

Survivor: Justice has been done

Daniel Gal, who lived during the war with his family in Oran, a coastal city in northwest Algeria, told CNN he remembers being “kicked out” of his school and sent to learn with other Jewish children.

“The Jews of the town decided that they would have a small school just for us,” he recalled. “The teachers, who were also Jewish, had been expelled from their schools. They had to come and teach us.”

Gal left Algeria after graduating from high school in 1950, eventually settling in Jerusalem, where he married and had three children.

He says the agreement brokered by the Claims Conference means “justice has been done.”

“I am very happy,” Gal told CNN on Monday. “Justice has been done and while it has taken a long time, the Claims Conference has done a very good job. My phone has been going all morning with friends calling me about it.”

Gal is one of an estimated 3,900 Algerian Jews living in Israel eligible for compensation.

$70 billion paid to Holocaust victims since 1952

The German government has paid more than $70 billion to more than 800,000 Holocaust victims since its first negotiations with the Claims Conference in in 1952, the organization said in a press release.

In 2017, the Claims Conference says it distributed in excess of $430 million in compensation to nearly 100,000 survivors in 83 countries.

The group says it expects to allocate around $500 million in grants to over 200 social service agencies in 2018 to help ensure Holocaust survivors receive home care, food and medicine.

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