Forced Labor Compensation Programs
A Mid-Term Review and Assessment
Status Report – 18 Months Since Filing Deadline
Although the issue of “forced labor” no longer appears in the headlines nor is it a front page news, it does not mean that the program is completed nor closed. However, it does mean, that for some 1.2 million claimants who filed with 7 partner organizations, there is a semblance of personal closure to that dark moment in history during the 1940’s. Backstage, processing of claims is still going on and there are still major challenges ahead for the IOM – the processing of claims, for personal injury, notification and payment of heirs, making decisions on complex property loss issues and the handling of appeals filed against decisions in all claim categories
Background – A Historical Review
Following the September 1998 elections in Germany, Gerhard Schroder’s coalition of Social Democrats and Greens pledged in their governing agreement to provide justice for slave and forced laborers, an issue no post-war Chancellor had been willing to confront because of its political sensitivity.
Historians have estimated that during World War II, Nazi Germany forcibly deported and employed about 12 million as slave laborers in concentration camps, forced laborers in industry and in agriculture.
On February 16, 1999, at a press conference, Schroder and 16 German business leaders announced a ‘German Initiative’ to compensate wartime laborers through a new Foundation (initially to be financed by German companies) – to counter class-action lawsuits in the US for attaining legal peace.
With this announcement, the stage was set to begin negotiations. The point man for the German government was Bodo Hombach, Schroder’s chief of staff who emphasized that Germany wanted not only to settle the slave labor claims, but also the other claims against German companies, including those against German banks and German insurance companies.
May 12, 1999 was selected as the opening plenary session for negotiations, convened in Washington, DC and chaired by Stuart Eizenstat of the US State Department. Participating in separate working groups on labor, insurance and banking were representatives from German government (including Parliamentarians), German industry, representatives from the governments of Poland, Czech Republic, Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine, representatives from the Claims Conference and several of the lawyers who filed class-action lawsuits against German industry.
Opening comments included those of Bodo Hombach, who declared that there was no room in the agreement set aside for Eastern European agricultural workers and that there was a problem in the ratio of payments to slave laborers as compared to forced laborers.
Nearly three years earlier the Polish American Congress had already begun an initiative, collecting representative claims from more than 1,000 American citizens, survivors who came to the United States after World War II as Displaced Persons and had been slave/forced laborers under the Third Reich. Although not at this first meeting on May 12, 1999, the Polish American Congress was invited to a later session on May 27,1999, with Stuart Eizenstat, ].D. Bindenagel (later to oversee the program of Holocaust issues at the State Department) and several other Department officials to share “consultative” issues. Among them was this emphasis: that the Agreement cover all industry in Germany (and not only those workers who worked for those 16 firms who were the subject of the class-action lawsuits). The eligibility criteria would be that all slave and forced laborers who worked in any part of the German economy for any entity, whether it be public or private be eligible and that it include domestic, industrial, public sector and agricultural workers. The administration of this fund would be on a direct claims made basis and that each forced laborer receive the same amount- there would be no adjustments based on geographic location or cost of living differentials.
For the balance of a year and with a dozen plenary sessions alternating between Germany and Washington DC – an agreement was finalized which on eligibility standards covered exactly the points made earlier by the Polish American Congress on May 27,1999.
From the Future Fund- Video Interviews with Survivors
Since the Foundation’s beginning many survivors have expressed their wish to share their lives and pass on their experiences to the young generations of what they witnessed and the sufferings they encountered.
The object of this funded project would be to make video recordings, interviews of former forced and slave laborers. These interviews would be archived in Germany where they would be made available for research, documentation and remembrance in the coming years.
Copies would be made available to the various ethnic groups, to be used in educational materials and for communicating history to young people. The Polish American Congress has requested the German Foundation to have victim organizations participate in this project and to have a voice in selecting survivors for interview. This project is important to those of us who emigrated to the UK, Canada, and USA, Australia and to Latin America from the displaced camps of Germany. Austrian Reconciliation Fund-Extension Deadline The fining deadline for the Austrian Reconciliation Fund (ARF) has been extended again. Former forced laborers who had to work in Austria are now allowed to submit their claims to the ARF until 31 December 2003. Former slaves and forced laborers whose claim with the German Forced Labor Compensation Programme has been rejected but who have performed forced labor on the territory of today’s Austria can still file a claim with the ARF. Applications should be submitted to the following address: Austrian Reconciliation fund PO Box 44 A-1011 Vienna, Austria Tel. +43-1-5136016 More information is also available on the internet at www.reconciliationfund.net. Efforts by the Polish American Congress Assisting Claims
The Polish American Congress through its state divisions and national member organizations, including the fraternals, provided countless hours of assistance to the thousands of survivors in filing claims. The Polish American Congress through its website, through its toll-free hotline accessible anywhere in the USA and Canada, and through the use of radio and print media was able to reach potential claimants, provide them with IOM’s claim application, assist in reviewing the documents, establish d file and forward it on to the IOM for registration. Some statistics of note of the effort which included walk-in counseling at the Polish National Alliance and the PNA Information Center (Chicago), the PAC division offices in Michigan, in New York, New Jersey and in Philadelphia:
total claims filed: 5,166 men: 2,479 women: 2,687
Canada – claims from 7 provinces totaling 1,1 77 (Ontario the largest with 832, Quebec with 200)
USA total of 4,089 claims – 47 states were represented (only Alaska, Mississippi and Wyoming missing), Illinois had the largest number of claims with 1,543
An additional 2,500 claims were referred to the IOM offices in Australia, Latin America and in Europe. Additional statistics: o personal visit by claimant to complete applications: 429 o help calls from our toll-free hotline: 2,405 Besides the German Forced Labor Program, the Polish American Congress participated in assisting survivors in the Austrian Compensation Program with more than 250 claimants receiving payments. Victims’ Associations In order to assist in its work, the IOM organized a Steering Group of Most Involved Victims’ Associations, which had representatives from 12 countries, including the Polish American Congress. This Group has met seven times thus far – four times in 2001, twice in 2002 and once in 2003 at the offices of the IOM in Geneva. Its use was to provide a sounding board of problems, assist in IOM Field Mission offices, provide Resolutions to the German Foundation about issues such as credibility in evidence, the establishing of an approved “camps list”, searching additional data bases for archival retrieval and requesting periodic tranches in payments. The Group was instrumental in the composition of IOM’s Appeals Body, as two of the three members of this body came from the ranks of the Steering Group. With the adoption of Resolutions, the Group convinced the German Foundation to take a “credibility’ approach towards assessing the eligibility of claims which were not supported by documentary evidence. The Group argued that after 55 years, with the passage of time, with memories faint and the loss of documents, the expectations needed to be relaxed. Other Partners IOM, as required by the German Foundation, sent requests to the Red Cross International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany for matching eligibility. In nearly 10 percent of the cases investigated, the ITS records resulted in a recommendation for payment by the IOM. Where no ITS result was found, data requests were sent to the Archivverbund, organized especially to facilitate the search for records in German federal, state and local archives. Similar arrangements were made with the Polish Red Cross, other Polish archives and with the various museums associated with concentration camps.
German Forced Labor Compensation Programme – the Role of the IOM
In July 2000, IOM was designated by the Government of Germany to be a partner organization of the Federal Foundation. IOM was tasked to compensate former slave and forced laborers, including victims of other personal injury and victims of property loss. Regarding slave and forced labor and personal injury, IOM is responsible for all non-Jewish claimants who reside anywhere in the world except in the Czech Republic, Poland and the Republics of the former Soviet Union. The filing deadline for all claims expired on December 31, 2001.
The German Foundation administers the DEM 10 billion (EUR 5.113 billion) Compensation Fund, of which approximately DEM 770 million (EUR 394 million) are allocated to IOM: DEM 540 million (EUR 276 million) for slave and forced labor; DEM 200 million (EUR 1 02 million) for property loss; part of DEM 50 million (EUR 25.56 million) for personal injury; and DEM 24 million (EUR 12.27 million) for social programmes for Sinti and Roma. The German Foundation and IOM signed separate contracts for each of the components of GFLCP. Slave and Forced Labor By the end of 2001, IOM had received almost 330,000 claims for forced and slave labor from about 50 countries. IOM has a very diverse claimant population. The largest number of claims was submitted by (a) Italian Military Internees (IMIs), followed by (b) Western Europeans (Belgians, Dutch, French, Italians, Luxembourgeois), (c) persons from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), (d) Polish, Ukrainian and Russian persons currently living in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and other destination countries of immigration after World War II, and (e) persons from Germany, Romania, Hungary, Greece, and Slovakia. Pursuant to a decision by the German Government, IMIs are Prisoners of War and thus are not compensable under this Act, unless they were detained in a concentration camp recognized under the German Foundation Act. Western European former forced laborers are, as a group, not eligible under the German Foundation Act because they were not targets of acts of terror specifically decreed by the Nazis for racial or similar reasons, as were forced laborers of Slavic descent. The remaining claimant groups considered eligible pose considerable challenges, including: the lack of documentary evidence in the claims; the low rate of positive results when archival searches are made by IOM on behalf of the claimant; and the lack of accessible, relevant historical research on deportation and forced labor, which often varied for persons from different countries and even for persons with a different religious background within a country. In order to recommend for payment the claims lacking sufficient documentation, IOM commissioned historical experts to search various archives, including the Red Cross International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen and the newly-established German Archivverbund, to find the necessary evidence. Personal Injury By the end of 2001, IOM had received approximately 33,000 claims for personal injury. 10,000 of these claims belong to category 1, and 23,000 to categories 2 and 3. Category I claims are those submitted by victims of medical experiments, by children who were held in homes for children of forced laborers and suffered severe damage to their health, and by parents of children who died in homes for children of forced laborers. Property Loss By the end of December 2001, IOM had received almost 26,000 claims for property loss. Payments for property losses can only be made once all claims have been decided and reconsideration requests reviewed, which is not expected before 2004. Appeals As of June, 2003, IOM had received 14,000 appeals regarding decisions on slave or forced labor claims and 150 appeals concerning rejections of personal injury claims. The large majority of the appeals against slave and forced labor decisions were submitted by former IMIs, who are not eligible for compensation under the German Foundation Act, unless they were held in a concentration camp. Appeals can be submitted to the Appeals Body within three months of a decision. The appeal must be sent in writing either to IOM, Appeals Body (FL), Case Postale 1 74, CH- 1211, Geneva 19, Switzerland in case of an appeal against a decision on a slave or forced labor claim, or to IOM, Appeals Body (PIN), Case Postale 174, CH-1211 Geneva 1 9, Switzerland in case of an appeal against a decision on a personal injury claim. In March 2002, the IOM Appeals Body for Slave and Forced Labor Claims (the Appeals Body) was established in cooperation with IOM’s Steering Group of Most Involved Victims’ Associations and in coordination with the German Foundation. it has three members: the Chairman Mr. Matti Paavo Pellonpaa, a Judge at the European Court of Human Rights, Ms. Natasa Zupancic of the Slovene Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Les Kuczynski of the Polish American Congress and the Polish National Alliance. The Appeals Body deals with appeals against IOM decisions on claims for slave and forced labor and personal injury.
Under the German Foundation Act, the Appeals Body is independent and subject to no outside instruction. Victims’ Associations IOM’s Steering Group of Most Involved Victims’ Associations, represents survivor groups in 12 countries with the Polish American Congress representing victims from North America (USA and Canada). The Group was instrumental in the composition of IOM’s Appeals Body, as two of the three members of this body come from the ranks of the Steering Group. With the adoption of a clear resolution, it also helped to urge the Foundation to take a humanitarian approach towards assessing the plausibility of claims not supported by documentary evidence utilizing a ‘credibility’ approach. Other Cooperation Partners By December 2002, IOM had sent data for some 145,000 claims to the Red Cross International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. In nearly 10 per cent of the cases investigated, the ITS records resulted in a recommendation for payment by IOM. For slave and forced labor claims that were considered potentially eligible, and for which no ITS result was found, data were sent to the Archivverbund organized to facilitate the search for records in German federal, state and local archives. General Information on the Holocaust Victim Assets Programme/HVAP
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) was designated by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York with making distributions under the Settlement Agreement reached between Holocaust survivors and Swiss Banks in 1999. The US$ 1.25 billion Settlement Fund will serve in part, to pay compensation to former slave laborers and certain other victims of the National Socialist regime. Under the terms of the Distribution Plan adopted by the United States Court, IOM’s Slave Labor Class I is composed of Roma, Jehovah’s Witness, Handicapped and Homosexual victims and targets of Nazi persecution who performed slave or forced labor for German companies. Eligible claimants in this subclass may receive a one-time payment of US$ 11450. Slave Labor Class II is composed of those who performed forced labor for a Swiss company or a German subsidiary of a Swiss company that was a party to the Swiss Banks Settlement. Eligible claimants in this subclass may receive a onetime payment of US$ 1,000.
IOM’s Refugee Class is composed of Roma, Jehovah’s Witness, Handicapped and Homosexual victims and targets of Nazi persecution who sought refuge in Switzerland and were either denied entry into Switzerland or expelled, or allowed to enter Switzerland but were subsequently detained, abused or mistreated. Eligible claimants in this subclass who were denied entry into or expelled from Switzerland may receive a one-time payment of US$ 3,625 while eligible claimants who were admitted into Switzerland but subsequently detained, abused or mistreated, may receive a one-time payment of US$ 725.
The deadline for submitting claims to IOM under the Holocaust Victim Assets Programme (Swiss Banks VHVAP expired on December 31, 2001. IOM has received approximately 48,000 claims in 11 languages. 35,000 were for Slave Labor Class I 12,000 for Slave Labor Class II and 660 for the Refugee Class. HVAP also expects to consider for compensation an additional 11,500 Roma claims filed under the German Forced Labor Compensation Programme (GFLCP) sponsored by the German Government and German industry. As of June 2003, 1,340 claimants had been recommended to be paid a total of US$ 2,072,550. Claimants who do not agree with the Court’s decision have the right to appeal to an independent IOM Appeals Body or to an Independent Appeals Officer, depending on the sub-class. IOM aims at completing the Holocaust Victim Assets Programme by the end of 2004. Humanitarian and Social Programmes
In the context of the ‘‘Looted Assets Class” of the Settlement Agreement, IOM was mandated under the Distribution Plan to distribute US$ 14.5 million to needy, elderly Roma and Sinti, Jehovah’s Witness, Handicapped and Homosexual victims and targets of Nazi persecution via humanitarian programmes. These programmes are not claims-based, and the material assistance and services delivered to beneficiaries include food, medical and dental care, home care, legal assistance, social assistance, clothing, winter assistance (such as coal, wood, and winter clothing), hygienic supplies, and emergency financial support. Projects are now operational in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro and Ukraine. These projects currently provide assistance to some 34,000 victims of Nazi persecution. Personal Injury- Victims of Nazi Medical Experiment
IOM has received 32,000 personal injury claims and is currently focusing on the 9,000 claims filed in category I by victims of pseudo-medical experiments, by persons who as children were lodged in a home for children of slave or forced laborers and by parents whose children died in such children’s homes. In order to resolve these claims in an efficient way, IOM closely cooperates with the Polish partner organization who has made available to IOM two of its own staff. Although IOM has already reviewed one third of the category I claims and is making an effort to quickly resolve the remaining claims, there are still some obstacles to overcome. One major difficulty is the fact that claims must be processed in more than 20 languages. The first victims are expected to receive their compensation by the end of this year and IOM hopes to finish its work soon after that. Eligible claimants in personal injury category I can receive up to EUR 7,669 (DEM 15,000). The German Foundation Act allocated a total of EUR 25,5 million (DEM 50 mil- lion) to all seven partner organizations to compensate the claims for personal injury. Because of the limited resources allocated for the settlement of personal injury claims, the German Foundation and its partner organizations have had to restrict payment for personal injury to claims filed in category 1. IOM has already issued the first 23,000 decisions and sent notifications to claimants for personal injury in categories 2 or 3, that is to people who suffered extremely severe or severe health damage, but who could not file a claim in category 1. These first mailings included only negative decisions. Unfortunately, the wording of the personal injury rejection letter has caused some confusion with the claimants concerned. Some claimants understood from the letter that their slave or forced labor claim had also been rejected. This is not the case. All claimants will receive separate notifications for each of their different claims; that is for slave or forced labor, for personal injury and for property loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
Under the various programs administered by the IOM, how many compensation claims have been received by IOM worldwide?
IOM has received a total of 389,600 claims under the German Forced Labor Compensation Program (GFLCP); 329,000 for slave and forced labor, 32,000 for personal injury and 28,600 for property loss. The figures for slave and forced labor represent nearly four times the initial estimates. Under the Holocaust Victim Assets Program (HVAP) known as the Swiss Banks case, IOM has received a total of approximately 40,500 claims; 26,300 in Slave Labor Class 1, 12, 600 in Slave Labor Class II and 600 in the Refugee Class.
How many claims have been decided and what has been the result?
As of June 2003, IOM has resolved approximately 218,000 of the 329,000 GFLCP claims. Fifty thousand claims in the slave and forced labor category have been recommended for payment to the German Foundation with the most recent payment tranche of July 1, 2003.
Some 168,000 claimants have received a notification letter informing them about their ineligibility under the German Foundation Act. These include many former Italian Military Internees (IMIs) as well as Western European forced laborers, who were not detained in a concentration camp or deported and imprisoned elsewhere, Prisoners of War and heirs of victims who died before February 16th, 1999.
So far, IOM distributed more than EUR 98 million (DEM 190 million) in the framework of GFLCP. The Property Claims Commission has so far resolved 5,1 00 claims for property loss: 1,1 70 positively and 3,930 negatively.
With regard to personal injury, all claims for extremely severe and severe health damage (categories 2 and 3) have had to be rejected by all partner organizations because of the limited funds allocated by the German Foundation Act for the compensation of personal injury claims. IOM has sent rejection letters to more than 23,000 claimants in these categories. IOM is now focusing on the 9,000 claims filed in category 1.
Under HVAP, 12 per cent of the approximately 27,000 claims received in Slave Labor Class I have been reviewed and 1,340 have been paid their full entitlement as of June 2003. Overall, IOM has distributed US$ 2 million, in the framework of the Swiss Banks Settlement.
Why are not all claims yet decided?
IOM has decided approximately 66 per cent of the slave and forced labor claims it has received and made a first payment to approximately 70 per cent of the estimated total number of eligible claimants. Now the IOM is processing the more difficult remaining groups of claimants who have incomplete documentation or who have no records. IOM wants to give these claimants the best possible chance of receiving compensation. To do so, the IOM must go beyond the International Tracing Service (ITS) and the Archivverbund set up in Germany for archival searches, and look for other possibilities of finding documentary evidence.
The IOM is cooperating, for example, with the Polish Red Cross and other Central/ Eastern European historical databases. Furthermore, IOM’s decisions will more and more have to be based, not on clear cut documents or results of archival searches, but on a circumstantial evidence that makes a claim credible. Naturally, this involves more individualized case by case scrutiny of claims in order to have the German Foundation’s approval of a claim.
Why is it not possible to expedite the processing?
IOM cannot hire additional staff because it would reduce the funds available for compensation; the more spent on administering and implementing the program, the less funds are left for compensating the victims. Further, IOM depends on the efficiency of its partners, such as the ITS and the German Foundation.
IOM prioritizes the claims of living victims over the claims filed by heirs, since heirs will eventually receive compensation. Neither the Foundation nor IOM stand to save any money by delaying processing.
Why must I wait when my neighbor already was paid?
The relative speed by which the IOM can process and resolve claims depends on many factors; most importantly it is based on when a claimant files and when the claim is registered. Beyond setting a priority of a claim filed by a victim versus one filed by heirs, IOM does not interrupt the sequence in the order of processing.
Once a claim is reviewed, its completion depends on factors such as accuracy and completeness of the application itself, the supportive evidentiary documents attached to the claim, and the timing and the result of the searches from ITS and the archives (whether additional searches are necessary).
When will eligible claimants receive second payments?
IOM is scheduled to begin making second installment payments by mid-2004.
What will be the total amounts of the compensation?
The German Federation Act makes available EUR 276 million (DEM 540 million) to IOM to compensate its eligible slave and forced labor claimants. A claimant can receive up to EUR 7,669 (DEM 15000) for slave labor, up to EUR 2556 (DEM 5,000) for forced labor in industry and up to EUR 1,022 (DEM 2,000) for forced labor in agriculture. Whereas the German foundation Act gives priority to slave laborers (in all likelihood they will receive the maximum amount), the Act foresees that the compensation for forced laborers could be reduced should there be insufficient funds. It is generally accepted that the IOM will have a priority claim on interest earned by the German Foundation ‘s funds should the above allocation not suffice for a fair treatment of IOM’s claimant group.
How many claimants for slave and forced labor under GFLCP are entitled to compensation?
IOM estimates that only about 20% or 70,000 of the 329,000 claims for slave or forces labor are eligible under the German Foundation Act. The large discrepancy between claims received and claimants entitled results from uncertainty among victims regarding criteria at the outset of the program; for example many groups, such as the Italian Military Internees (IMI’s), and the Western European forced laborers are now excluded.
Why are Western European forced laborers in general not eligible for compensation under the German Foundation Act?
Western European countries, (including France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Luxemburg) have to fulfill three criteria: they have to show that they were deported to Germany or a German occupied territory, that they had to perform forced labor, and that they were held in prison-like or similar extremely harsh conditions as were, for example, Jews, Sinti and Roma, and forced laborers of Slavic decent. Unless forced laborers from Western Europe were held in a concentration camp or ghetto, were deported and put in prison for racial, political, or similar reasons, or were deported and detained in a labor reform camp or a labor reform camp attached to a German company or a penal camp, they will receive a negative decision on their claim.
Why are former Italian Military Internees (IMI’s) in general not eligible for compensation under the German Foundation Act?
Due to their status as Prisoners of War, former IMI’s are not eligible for compensation under the German Foundation Act. Former IMI’s can only receive a compensation payment if they can show that they were detained in a concentration camp recognized under the German Foundation Act. This means that the claims of approximately 130,000 IMI’s have had to be rejected.
When will the compensation programs be completed?
IOM is committed to completing the programs by the end of 2004, and has established a work plan in accordance with that goal, despite the large number of claims for slave and forced labor that still need to be reviewed, and the possibility of appeal. The last slave and forced labor payments (second installment) will be made by the end of 2004. Payments to victims of personal injury are scheduled for early 2004. For property loss, under the German Foundation Act, no payments can be made until all claims and all requests for reconsideration have been processed, which is not expected until mid-2004. Under the Holocaust Victims Assets Program, claimants will receive their full payment in one installment as soon as their claim has been approved for payment. It is expected that by the end of June 2004, all claims will be decided and all payments will have been made.
Does IOM help claimants find supporting evidence for their claims?
With regard to slave and forced labor claims, IOM first tries to make a decision on the basis of the evidence attached to the claim. If the evidence provided is not sufficient, IOM systemically checks data with the Red Cross International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, and, if not evidence can be found there, with the Foundation funded Archivvebund and other archives. IOM also cooperates closely with victims’ associations, the Polish Red Cross, and other regional and local organizations to find supporting evidence. Regarding the considerable number of claims for which IOM is not able to find supporting evidence, it has begun to make decisions on the basis of the “credibility” standard defined in the German Foundation Act.
Why make time consuming archival searches if supporting documents are already provided?
All supporting evidence sent with a claim or thereafter is useful, but might not be sufficient to satisfy the criteria of the German Foundation Act and/or the requirements of the Foundation, as they review claims recommended by the IOM by means of an audit.
Does the rejection of a personal injury claim include the rejection of a slave or forced labor claim and why do claimants receive a decision on a personal injury claim although they do not recall having filed a claim in this category?
All claims filed with IOM in these separate categories of slave or forced labor, personal injury, or property loss, are processed independently and claimants receive separate notification on all claims submitted. This is spelled out at the bottom of the rejection letter for personal injury, which was dated April 21, 2003.
Since IOM has a worldwide responsibility under this program and, given the complexity and cost of multiple communications with claimants all over the world in many different languages, the IOM claim form for slave and forced labor tried to capture a maximum amount of information. If a claimant indicated on a claim that he or she suffered from a personal injury, IOM automatically considers this a separate claim.
What happens if a claimant dies after having filed a claim and before receiving compensation payment?
If a victim who filed a claim under GDLCP dies, any heir specified under the German Foundation Act may notify the IOM up to six months after the date of the victim’s death. Beyond this time, heirs cannot be considered for payment.
To receive the compensation payment, eligible heirs must submit proof to IOM of the victim’s death and of their relationship with the victim. If a claimant passes away between the first and second installment of the payment, the heirs also have to inform IOM in writing. If an heir receives a check issued for the victim who had died in the meantime, he or she must return the check to IOM. Claims of heirs will be dealt with after the claims of all victims have been resolved.
Which heirs are eligible to receive payment?
According to the German Foundation Act, a surviving spouse and children are entitled to receive equal shares of any payment related to slave or forced labor, or personal injury that would have been awarded to an eligible claimant who died on or after February 16th, 1999. A surviving spouse or children are also entitled to receive equal shares of any payment that would have been awarded to a person who suffered property loss and died at any time, if that person or his or her heirs had filed a claim within the deadline of December 31st, 2001. If the deceased was survived by neither a spouse nor children, the grandchildren are entitled to receive the compensation payment. If there are not surviving eligible relatives, then the heirs named in a will are entitled to receive the monies.
When will heirs receive the first installment of payment?
IOM is giving priority to the processing of claims by victims rather than those by heirs. This means that victims will be paid before heirs. At this point, it cannot be determined exactly when eligible heirs will receive the first installment payment, but, as IOM is committed to complete the Compensation Programs within the next 18 months, the first payments to heirs can be expected in the first half of 2004.
Why is the IOM paying the compensation for slave and forced labor in two installments?
The two installments are required by the German Foundation Act. IOM has succeeded in raising the percentage of the first installment payment from 35 to 50 then to 75 per cent for former slave laborers. Former forced laborers continue to receive 50 per cent of their overall entitlement with the first check.
The German Foundation Act requires that for every request to raise the ceiling of the first installment payment the partner organization must prove that it will not exceed its total allotment of funds. This has been impossible for IOM as, contrary to all other partner organizations, the exact size and composition of its compensable claimant group is still not known.
Why do some claimants in the same forced labor category receive different payments, or none at all, depending on the partner organization in charge?
This imbalance is a consequence of the terms of the German Foundation Act. The Act allows partner organizations to include additional groups in an opening clause, provided this does not result in any reduction in the payment to slave labor claimants.
IOM had decided to pay the maximum amount of all available compensation to all successful claimants and to not make use of the opening clause. The only exception is forced laborers in agriculture, who receive approximately EUR 1,022 (DEM 2,000).
Why is the Austrian Reconciliation Fund more generous in terms of eligibility and of filing deadline?
Though addressing the same issue, the German and Austrian Compensation Programs are two different programs, based on different laws of different countries. The ongoing dialogue and cooperation between the Austrian and the German Foundations does not change the basic fact. For example, the Austrian Law explicitly excludes IMI’s, but includes forced laborers of Western European origin. Moreover, the Austrian program is handling far fewer claims and a much smaller fund. This allows it to be more flexible.
In fact, the reason why the Austrian Reconciliation Fund’s filing deadline was extended until December 31st, 2003, is that it still has funds that are not committed. The ARF now wants to give potential claimants an additional chance in the hope that more will step forward and benefit from the available funds.
What kinds of arrangements have been made with local banks? Are they free to charge commission fees for the deposit or cashing of checks?
To date, the only bank with which IOM has any arrangements is Citibank. This arrangement aims at keeping costs to the minimum and has been approved by the German Foundation. IOM sends lists of claimants for whom the Foundation has approved payments to Citibank, which then mail checks to individual claimants. Unfortunately, IOM has no control over fees charged by banks anywhere in the world for the deposit or cashing of checks.
How will claimants know whether their claim has been approved or rejected and will a legal representative also be notified of the decision?
IOM will advise all claimants in writing once a decision has been made, whether or not their claims have been approved. Claimants will receive separate notifications on decisions if they filed claims in different categories with IOM.
What did it mean when IOM’s confirmation letter states that the claim received is “complete?”
It a claim did not show any formal deficiencies, the claimant received a confirmation letter stating that his or her claim was “complete.” This did not mean that the claim would be approved on the basis of the documents provided, but simply that the claim met IOM’s formal requirements. It is very important to note that this conformation letter in now way reduced the IOM’s requirement for verification and substantiation as imposed by the German Foundation Act, or prejudiced any final decision on the claim. These processes require time, and the IOM often depends entirely on others to complete them.
Can claimants lodge an appeal against the decision on their claim?
Slave and forced labor claimants who do not agree with the decision on their claim can, within three months of the decision, file an appeal to the independent Appeals Body based in Geneva. The appeal must be sent in writing to IOM, Appeals Body (FL), Case Postale 174, CH 1211 Geneva 19, Switzerland.
Property Loss claimants who do not agree with the decision on their claim can, within three months of the decision, submit a request for reconsideration to IOM, (PROP), Case Postale, 174, CH 1211 Geneva 19, Switzerland. In such a case, the Property Claims Commission will reconsider the claim and issue a final decision.
HVAP Slave Labor Class I claimants have the right to appeal to the same Appeals Body as slaves and forced laborer claimants under GFLCP. Appeals by HVAP Slave Labor Class II claimants will be reviewed by an Independent Review Officer. Requests for review of decisions on HVAP Refugee Class claims must be filed with IOM and will be decided by the US Court.
So far, IOM has received more than 14,000 appeals against slave or forced laborer and personal injury decisions (95 percent which were filed by former IMI’s) and 80 requests for reconsideration regarding decisions made by the Property Claims Commission.
Early IOM information material mentions a six-month deadline for filing an appeal. Now claimants have only 100 days. Why has the appeals deadline been changed?
The German Foundation has always stated the appeals deadline as 3 months and 7 days (100 days) because the forced labor compensation program, including appeals, should be completed as quickly as possible. Initially, IOM had attempted to give all claimants a longer period for filing appeals. All claimants who received a negative decision on their claim at an early stage of the program were granted an appeals deadline of six months, and, for them, that deadline was respected.
However, IOM’s processing of claims has passed the midpoint and IOM is no longer in a position to grant an extended deadline. In accordance with the German Foundation Act, since November 2002, the 100 day deadline applies to all appeals, no matter where they come from.
What are the Humanitarian and Social Programs (HSP’s)?
Under the German Foundation Act IOM has been able to carry out social programs for the benefit of Sinti and Roma victims of Nazi persecution. Pursuant to an Order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, IOM is responsible for administering humanitarian assistance for needy Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexual and disabled survivors of the Nazi regime. Forms of humanitarian and social assistance may include food (food package assistance is provided only under the Swiss Banks Settlement), medical and dental care, home care, winter assistance, emergency financial support, clothing, and social and/or legal assistance. IOM seeks to fund projects carried out by service providers experienced in working with the beneficiary groups.
Targeting the neediest survivors in certain Eastern and Central European countries commenced in 2002 in Belarus, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Ukraine. IOM is also cooperating with the Jehovah’s Witness Holocaust Era Survivors Fund to provide humanitarian assistance to the needy, elderly members of this target group.
Is it possible for individuals to apply for humanitarian and social assistance?
Unlike the other compensation programs, the Humanitarian and Social Programs are not claim-based and thus do not require individual applications for persons to receive assistance. Instead, organizations interested in providing such assistance to the above mentioned target groups are encouraged to contact the IOM website www.iom.int or write to IOM, Humanitarian and Social Programs, CP 71, 1211 Geneva 19, Switzerland.
Appeals can be submitted to the Appeals Body within three months of a decision. The appeal must me sent in writing either to IOM, Appeals Body (FL), Case Postale 174, CH-1211, Geneva 19, Switzerland in case of an appeal against a decision on a slave or forced labor claim, or to IOM, Appeals Body (PIN), Case Postale, 174, Ch-1211 Geneva 19 Switzerland in case of an appeal against a decision on a personal injury claim.
IOM recognizes and respects every victim of the Nazi regime, whether or not eligible under the German Foundation Act, and perfectly understands the frustration and disappointment a rejection of the claim might cause. However, an appeal will only be successful if the claimant can establish that his or her claim fulfills all eligible criteria laid down in the German Foundation Act.