Germany Agrees On Reparations For Nazi Victims In Former Soviet Union
BONN, Germany (AP) _ Germany agreed Friday to pay reparations to victims of Nazi brutality in the former Soviet Union for the first time since the end of World War II.
A total of $625 million is to be given to victims or their relatives living in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, according to the German Foreign Ministry.
The three former Soviet republics were occupied by German troops during World War II.
The agreement is the latest German step toward reconciliation with former Communist nations in Eastern Europe.
In October 1991, Germany made an important gesture of reconciliation to Poland by agreeing to pay $312 million to former forced laborers or their families. About 2.4 million Poles were subjected to slave labor by the Nazis.
Germany has also paid out more than $50 billion to Jewish Holocaust victims and their families.
According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Erdmann, Germany and the Soviet Union had started negotiating reparations ″but we had to work up a new concept because the Soviet Union collapsed.″
Erdmann said the money will be paid into special foundations to be created in the three former Soviet republics.
The foundations, to be staffed by Germans and natives of each country, will examine the applications of people who say they were Nazi victims.
Erdmann said he did not know the number of Soviet citizens forced to work by the Nazis.
″But we must remember the Soviet Union suffered more than any other country during the war. They lost a total of 20 million people,″ Erdmann said.
The agreement comes three days before the 50th anniversary of the Nazis’ brutal quashing of the Jewish Warsaw ghetto uprising.
Marking that anniversary, German President Richard Weizsaecker said Friday that Germans cannot forget their Nazi past, especially because of recent neo- Nazi attacks against foreigners.
″It is important that we meet today’s dangers with open eyes, and it is important that we recall the monstrous events of 50 years ago,″ Weizsaecker said.
Some opinion polls have shown that many young Germans believe it is time to put the Nazi past behind them.
Ceremonies marking the Jewish ghetto uprising are to be held Monday in Warsaw.