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"Restitution for National Socialist Injustice": Article by Oberregierungsrat Ernst Heller in Die Neue Zeitung (March 19, 1949)

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Care for the persecuted consists not only of monetary benefits. The persecuted also enjoy special protection against dismissal under the labor laws and preference in housing. Several states in the U.S. zone gave the persecuted hundreds of room furnishings that were made on the basis of a state contract; they gave them radios and ration cards for shoes and textiles in the period before the currency reform. Cash grants were given to help them develop a livelihood, to bridge a momentary economic crisis, or to continue an education interrupted by the persecution.

All of these grants are low and are awarded only in cases of demonstrated need. Surviving family members receive regular pensions, but given the condition of the state’s finances, these pensions provide no more than a modest subsistence. In addition, medical care is given to those who can demonstrate that their health suffered from the persecution. A series of homes, also for children who suffered in concentration camps alongside their parents, are maintained or financially supported by the restitution offices.

All of these subsidies are granted only after careful examination of the political past and the economic situation of the applicant.

For the U.S. zone, a new law on the restitution of National Socialist injustice has been adopted by the Länderrat, though it has not yet been confirmed by the military government. This new law provides compensation payments to victims of persecution in the U.S. zone independent of economic need. They are to receive 150 DM for each month of incarceration. Property damages are to be paid out over the next few years at a ratio of 1 DM for each 10 RM.

Hope for a speedy conclusion

With the disbursement of these payments on the basis of the new law, restitution is to be concluded as quickly as the scarce state funds allow. That will still leave the task of caring for surviving family members and for those who were rendered unfit to work as a result of persecution.

But compensation by the restitution offices cannot completely make up for what has happened. No one can give a wife back the husband who died in the gas chambers, give children back their parents. The time spent in a concentration camp or prisons is irretrievably lost. The impediments in education, the time spent outside of one’s real profession during years of emigration cannot be restored. One can only bandage wounds, the scars will remain.

Source: Ernst Heller, “Gutmachung nationalsozialistischen Unrechts” [“Restitution for National Socialist Injustice”], Die Neue Zeitung, March 19, 1949; reprinted in Udo Wengst, Geschichte der Sozialpolitik in Deutschland, Bd. 2/2: 1945-1949: Die Zeit der Besatzungszonen. Sozialpolitik zwischen Kriegsende und der Gründung zweier deutscher Staaten. Dokumente [The History of Social Policy in Germany, vol. 2/2: 1945-1949. The Era of the Occupation Zones. Social Policy between the End of the War and the Founding of Two German States. Documents]. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2001, no. 253, pp. 571-73.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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