NEW YORK - After a year of tough negotiations, Germany has agreed to pay pensions to about 16,000 additional Holocaust victims worldwide - mostly survivors who were once starving children in Nazi ghettos, or were forced to live in hiding for fear of death.
The agreement announced Monday between the New York-based Claims Conference and the German government is "not about money - it's about Germany's acknowledgment of these people's suffering," said Greg Schneider, the conference's executive vice president.
Of the new beneficiaries, 5,000 live in the United States.
However, part of the agreement does not immediately cover survivors who were young Jewish children born in 1938 or later.
"We will continue to press for greater liberalizations to ensure that no Holocaust survivor is deprived of the recognition that each deserves," Stuart Eizenstat, special negotiator for the conference, said in a statement.
Germany will now pay reparation pensions to a total of 66,000 people who survived Nazi death camps and ghettos, or had to hide or live under false identity.
There is no deadline to apply for the pensions. Forms may be obtained through the conference website.
Schneider said the humanitarian deal was reached because of a broadening of the criteria for payment to Holocaust survivors.
Under the new rules, which take effect Jan. 1, any Jew who spent at least 12 months in a ghetto, in hiding or living under a false identity, is eligible for a monthly pension of 300 euros (about $375) a month. For countries in the former Soviet bloc, that amount is 260 euros.
Until now, the minimum time requirement for living under such duress was 18 months.
Julius Berman, chairman of the Claims Conference, said conference officials "have long emphasized to the German government that they cannot quantify the suffering of a Holocaust survivor who lived in the hell of a ghetto."
Living in hiding came with equally "unimaginable fear," he said in a statement - the existence of "a Jew in Nazi Europe who survived for any period of time in hiding or by living under a false identity, when discovery would have been a death sentence."