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Berlin to Compensate Hungarian Holocaust Survivors

The German government has agreed to pay 12.3 million euros ($19 million) to about 6,500 Jewish survivors of the Nazi occupation of Budapest, an international Jewish organization said Wednesday.

Hungarians light candles at a Holocaust memorial

More than 60 years after the end of the war, Hungary's Holocaust survivors will be compensated

The Claims Conference, an organization which has been representing Jews in negotiating compensation and restitution for victims of Nazi persecution since 1951, said it has secured payments after negotiations with the German government for "certain Jewish survivors of the Nazi occupation of Budapest."

"In recognition of the incarceration and suffering of Budapest Holocaust survivors, certain Jewish survivors of Nazi-era Budapest -- who currently reside in eastern Europe and previously did not receive any payments from certain major compensation program -- will receive a one-time payment of 1,900 euros from the Claims Conference Budapest Fund," the statement said.

In all, payments totalling 12.3 million euros would be issued to approximately 6,500 survivors living in Hungary.

Jewish population in Hungary decimated

Up until World War II, around 725,000 Jews lived in Hungary. But around 625,000 were deported and murdered by the Nazis in the death camps.

The compensation payments were being made to survivors of the Budapest ghetto, since all of the Jews in rural areas had been murdered, the head of Mazsihisz, the Association of Jewish Congregations, Peter Feldmayer, told AFP news agency.

"These payments mean a historical recognition of the horrible fate of the Budapest Jewry during the Nazi persecution," said Greg Schneider, managing director of the New York office of the Claims Conference, in Budapest.

The conference said that in order to "streamline the process and distribute the funds as quickly as possible, the Claims Conference has reviewed over 25,000 files to identify eligible survivors."

"Brief and simple waiver forms," as required by the German government, were being sent to 5,790 survivors who the conference believed may be eligible. The application deadline for compensation was Aug. 6, 2009.

Mazshisz head Feldmayer welcomed the compensation deal, but said it must be only a first step in negotiations between the Claims Conference and the German government to secure a monthly payment to ghetto survivors.

There are some 80,000 Jews currently living in Hungary, out of a total population of 10 million, meaning the Hungarian Jewish community is the second largest in Europe after France.

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