Germany Agrees to Compensate Victims of Communist Regime | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 13.06.2007
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Germany Agrees to Compensate Victims of Communist Regime

The German parliament passed a bill on Wednesday granting political prisoners of the former East German communist regime a monthly pension of 250 euros ($334).


Having opposing political views in East Germany could easily get you in trouble with the law

In order to qualify for the pension, persons who suffered political persecution under the communist regime in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) will have to prove that they spent at least six months in prison and that today they are not earning more that 1,035 euros per month, or 1,380 euros if they are married.

The bill was put forward by Germany's coalition government consisting of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

"Democracy does not forget its pioneers," said Arnold Vaatz, deputy leader of the CDU block in the parliament.

The government estimates that around 42,000 people will qualify for the pension and that 100 million euros will be paid out annually.

Symbolic amount

Einzelzelle des Stasi-Gefängnis Bautzen

From 1956 until 1989, around 2.700 peope were jailed in Bautzen -- the prison for "enemies of the state"

For the bill to become law, it still needs to be ratified by the upper house of the German parliament, or Bundesrat. Vaatz estimated that this will happen by the end of the summer.

Victims groups have criticized the new law, which was long in the making, arguing that it ignores the plight of thousands of Stasi secret police victims who do not qualify because their monthly income exceeds the cut-off level.

That includes relatives of people who died in prison, people who faced discrimination at work for their dissenting views and thousands of victims who were frequently incarcerated for short periods of time by the secret police.

There was also criticism that the compensation amount as too low to make much of a difference in people's lives.

"We appreciate the symbolic power of the victims' pension," said Detlef Stein, head of the Communist Regime Victims' Association. "But the financial aspect is insufficient for most victims of the communist party."

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