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Jeanette Wolff: Restitution for Nazi Victims (1955)

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Sad, perhaps – perhaps good! But it is necessary for once to state very openly what must be done in the spirit of our young democracy – namely, when we read the papers and see how cautious people are in issuing sentences against those who are guilty of murders during the Nazi period; whether or not these people were acting on orders from higher up is irrelevant. Here, we must think and act in the spirit of our democracy. These sentences are so lenient that we believe that those circles of people who are forever stuck in yesterday must be thinking: How weak this democracy is – so weak that it does not dare take action against its own murderers!
(How right! from the SPD)

In the interest of defending against the undermining of democracy, we must remember that we must do justice to the victims of the Nazi period. That would be the best rebuff to those who still believe that they can assert their demands in the Federal Republic or in Berlin, and who are speaking, with loud saber-rattling, about the rebuilding of a Germany in line with their ideas; the eternally unteachable and also the malicious who, under the slogan of being democratic, undermine democracy and place sticks of dynamite under the edifice of our young democratic state. The best lesson would be to say to them: this democratic Bundestag, in consideration of democracy, wants to do everything within its financial power to do right by the victims of the Nazi period.
(Applause from the SPD.)

This Bundestag has not forgotten these victims, just as this Bundestag and this democratic state will never forget what those criminals who are sounding off again today did to the German people and their descendants.

It is for that reason, ladies and gentlemen, that I want us – we, who, after all, approve high pensions for the one group – to move to increase the budgeted sum in Title 311, so that the many people who are still waiting today can receive quicker and more comprehensive restitution payments as early as this year. Better than all the press releases, better than all the public speeches is the deed itself – also for those persecuted in the Nazi period. It can only improve our standing abroad if we finally think of the persecuted who are still living in Germany and whose family members are eking out a living, often in great misery.

I therefore ask the High Parliament in the name of the many who still have not received justice, those whose family members died in concentration camps or prisons, or who were themselves victims of a terrible period in history, to approve the Social Democratic motion to increase Title 311. Ladies and gentlemen, for me, an approval of this increase would be the best birthday present the Bundestag could give me.
(Applause from the SPD and in the center.)

Source: Herbert Wehner, ed., Frau Abgeordnete, Sie haben das Wort! Bundestagsreden sozialdemokratischer Parlamentarierinnen 1949-1979 [Madame Representative, You Have the Floor. Social Democratic Women Parliamentarians, 1949-1979]. Bonn: Verlag Neue Gesellschaft GmbH, pp. 53-56.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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