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Fund to help children who suffered in East German care homes

Germany is to create a fund to help people who as children were placed in care homes in the former East Germany. Many report having suffered psychological and physical abuse.

Germany and its eastern states have announced a deal to help children who were forcibly placed in care in the former Communist East Germany.

A report presented at a press conference in Berlin on Monday found that children in such homes in the former East Germany should be treated equally to their counterparts in the former West Germany. 

The parliamentary secretary in the German family ministry, Herman Kues, told reporters that the federal government and the states of the former East Germany would contribute 40 million euros ($53 million) to a compensation fund.

The money is to be used to pay for things like therapy and other medical services. However, a monthly cash payment is not part of the plan, Kues said.

"The missed opportunities in life cannot be compensated in a material way," Manuela Schwesig, the social services minister of the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania said. She described the fund, which is to operate for a period of five years beginning on July 1, as a gesture of apology.

An estimated 495,000 children were placed in homes in the former East Germany between 1949 and when the country was disbanded in 1990. Many remain traumatized by their treatment while in care. More than 100,000 were put into homes for "difficult" children.

The report says many were subjected to harsh treatment, including psychological and physical abuse in an effort to form the young people into model citizens of the communist state.

Kues spoke of "shocking descriptions of conditions which so far are only are partially known."

Social Democrat Schwesig said she had been shocked to learn of the injustice, which she had only become aware of as a minister. "I am ashamed, and I'm very sorry," she said.

A fund worth 120 million euros to compensate children placed in care in the former West Germany already existed.

pfd/rc (dpa, AFP)