Online collection Wiedergutmachung for
National Socialist Injustice

History of Compensation

In the field of German Wiedergutmachung, compensation refers to the material reimbursement for personal damages (e.g. compensation for death, deprivation of liberty, damage to body or health) resulting from National Socialist persecution. The return of ascertainable assets seized due to persecution, on the other hand, falls into the category of restitution. This separation traces back to the legal actions of the Western occupying powers. Within their legislative authority, the Western allies focused on the restitution of confiscated property, while for the most part leaving compensation for other kinds of damage caused by National Socialist persecution to the German legislators. This procedure eventually resulted in two separate legal areas, or the two "tribes" of German Wiedergutmachung: compensation and restitution.

Early Compensation

At the instigation of the allied military authorities, first emergency assistance and welfare-based measures started in local communities after the end of the war. These measures primarily intended to alleviate the plight of the persecuted, who had suffered not only material but also unimaginable physical and psychological damage. 

Subsequent to the first often uncoordinated and spontaneous measures, the local administrations and the newly established Länder started to implement regional and cross-border provisions.

In the American occupation zone, Bavaria enacted "Order No. 9 concerning the making-up for disabilities caused by the nationalsocialistic system, by social rights” on October 15, 1945 (GVBl. Bayern 1946, p. 21  PDF). In the British occupation zone (Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia), the military government issued “Ordinance No. 2900 on the assistance for former prisoners of concentration camps” (German transcript in: BArch, B 126/12534 PDF) of December 1945. In the fall of 1945, the French military government in Baden, Rhineland-Palatinate and Wuerttemberg-Hohenzollern had already established offices for the assistance for victims of National Socialism. In Baden, the "Announcement on the provisional compensation for German victims of Nazism" entered into force on March 12, 1946 (German transcript, in: ABl. Baden 1946, p. 9 et seqq. PDF).

Various attempts to harmonize the legislative patchwork, such as the interzonal conference of the ministers and officials in charge of Wiedergutmachung in Tegernsee/Bavaria in December 1946, did not succeed to overcome the rather random welfare measures until the end of the decade.

Postcard from the meeting of ministers and advisors for reparation and care of the racially, religiously and politically persecuted.
From December 7 to 9, 1946, the Land Commissioner for Bavaria, who was responsible for persons persecuted for reasons of race, religion or political opposition, initiated a conference of ministers and officials in charge of Wiedergutmachung of the three Western occupation zones in Tegernsee/Bavaria. Despite the failed attempt to establish a four-zonal collaboration in Wiedergutmachung matters, this and subsequent meetings developed into a permanent Wiedergutmachung working group, contributing to a better coordination of assistance measures.

Occupation Zones

US Occupation Zone 

As a first uniform and cross-zonal compensation provision, the Länder Council of the US American zone passed the “Act on Compensation for National Socialist Injustice”, commonly referred to as USEG, on April 26, 1949 (LRGS, pp. 83-93 PDF). After approval by the military government on August 4, 1949, the Länder enacted corresponding laws on August 10, 1949 (GVBl. Hessen 1949, pp. 101-111 PDF), on August 12, 1949 (GVBl. Bayern 1949, pp. 195-204 PDF), on August 16, 1949 (Brem.GBl. 1949, pp. 159-166 PDF and RegBl. Württemberg-Baden 1949, pp. 187-196 PDF). The USEG entered into force retroactively as of April 1, 1949.

The complex USEG outlined the basic principles for future German federal compensation legislation. It defined persecuted persons in compensation law ("persons persecuted for reasons of political opposition to National Socialism or for reasons of race, faith or ideology") and introduced a classification into different types of damages ("damage to life, to body and health, to freedom, to property, or to economic progress"). The USEG provided monetary pensions, one-time payments, medical treatment, allowances, or loans to compensate for the damages. Compensation aimed at restoring the economic and social position of the persecuted person before the time of persecution. When calculating pensions, for example, the annuity rates corresponded with the pay grades of civil servants. 

A particularly lasting effect emanated from the territorial principle enshrined in the USEG: Persecuted persons were only entitled to compensation if they had their residence within the scope of the act, meaning the borders of the respective Land, on January 1, 1947. The Federal Compensation Act adopted a slightly modified version of this principle, which significantly limited the group of people entitled to compensation.


British Occupation Zone

The British occupation zone failed to achieve a uniform compensation legislation.

Schleswig-Holstein enacted, among others, a "Law Granting Special Benefits and Assistance to Politically Persecuted Persons" (GVOBl. Schl.-H. 1948, p. 73 et seqq. PDF) which established special support committees in every administrative district. The "Law granting pensions to the victims of National Socialism and their surviving dependants" (GVOBl. Schl.-H. 1948, pp. 74-76 PDF) regulated pensions to compensate damages to body and health. Both provisions became effective on March 4, 1948. Similar pension provisions existed in Hamburg and North-Rhine Westphalia with the "Law on Special Assistance Pensions" of May 24, 1948 (HmbGVBl. 1948, pp. 27-30 PDF) and with the "Law granting accident and survivor’s pensions to the victims of National Socialist repression" of March 5, 1947 (GV. NW. 1947, pp. 225-229 PDF). In Lower Saxony, victims of National Socialist persecution received assistance according to the "Personal Injury Act" of September 22, 1948 (Nds. GVBl. 1948, pp. 77-79 PDF). 

In addition, the Länder of the British zone enacted provisions granting the persecutees compensation for unlawful detention, imprisonment and other forms of deprivation of liberty: in North Rhine-Westphalia on February 11, 1949 (GV. NW. 1949, p. 63 et seq. PDF), in Schleswig-Holstein on July 4, 1949 (GVOBl. Schl.- H. 1949, p. 161 et seq. PDF), in Lower Saxony on July 31, 1949 (Nds. GVBl. 1949, pp. 185-187 PDF), and in Hamburg on August 16, 1949 (HmbGVBl. 1949, pp. 165-167 PDF).


French Occupation Zone 

Aside from individual emergency aid provisions in the Länder of the French occupation zone, the French military government enacted “Ordinance No. 164 on Compensation for the Victims ofsm” on June 29, 1948 (Journal officiel 1948, pp. 1583–1585 PDF). The execution of the ordinance resulted in the “Law on Compensation for Victims of National Socialism” that – contrary to the instructions – adopted substantial parts of the USEG. The Länder of the French occupation zone passed the law with minor changes: in Baden on January 10, 1950 (GVBl. Baden 1950, pp. 139–151 PDF), in Wuerttemberg-Hohenzollern on February 14, 1950 (RegBl. Württemberg-Hohenzollern 1950, pp. 187–200 PDF) and in Rhineland-Palatinate on May 22, 1950 (GVBl. Rheinland-Pfalz 1950, pp. 175–188 PDF).

The Saarland, which had been detached from the German territory in October 1946 and obtained a special status as Saar Protectorate, was first to present a comprehensive Land law after the Second World War. The “Law on Compensation for Damages Inflicted to the Victims of National Socialism” became effective on July 31, 1948 (ABl. Saarland 1948, pp. 1122–1129 PDF).

United Economic Zone

After the French occupation zone had joined the former Bizone on April 8, 1949, the newly established Trizone passed the “Emergency Aid Act” (WiGBl. 1949, pp. 205–214 PDF). It determined emergency aid measures for displaced persons, war victims, and people persecuted for reasons of political opposition, and thus became the predecessor of the later German Equalization of Burdens Act. 

On August 22, 1949, the Trizone passed the “Act on the Treatment of Victims of National Socialist Persecution in the Area of Social Security” (WiGBl. 1949, pp. 263 et seq. PDF) which, among other things, regulated the persecution-related substitute periods in pension insurances, including the associated pension increases.



In Berlin, which the occupying powers had divided into four sectors, a “(Main) Victims of Fascism Committee” was in charge of coordinating first emergency assistance for victims of National Socialist persecution. The committee belonged to the department of Social Services in the Berlin Magistrate (VOBl. Berlin no. 1, July 1945, p. 16 et seq. PDF). With the „Ordinance on pension payments to victims of fascism” (VOBl. Berlin 1947, p. 51 et seq. PDF) of February 18, 1947, the Berlin Magistrate reconsidered previous resolutions concerning the payment of pensions for recognized victims of fascism.

After the division of the city administration in 1950, the Western sectors chose a very different path in compensation legislation: The "Law on Recognition as Politically, Racially or Religiously Persecuted Persons" of March 20, 1950 (VOBl. Berlin [Ausgabe West] 1950 I, pp. 93–95 PDF) and the "Compensation Act for Victims of National Socialism" of January 10, 1951, which was based on the USEG (VOBl. Berlin [Ausgabe West] 1951 I, pp. 85–92 PDF; revised version: GVBl. Berlin 1952, pp. 116–124 PDF), reflected the divided city also in compensation law.

Aside from to these provisions, West Berlin continued to enforce exceptional, extensive supportive structures for persecuted victims, finding its expression in the “Law on support for political, racial, or religious persecutees and their dependants” of March 27, 1952 (GVBl. Berlin 1952, pp. 226–228 PDF).

Compensation According to the Federal Compensation Act (BEG)

The Federal Compensation Act (Bundesentschädigungsgesetz, BEG) passed three stages: Starting from the Additional Federal Compensation Act of 1953 to the Federal Compensation Act of 1956 to the Final Federal Compensation Act of 1965.


Additional Federal Compensation Act

After the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, the regional provisions regulating compensation for victims of National Socialism during the time of allied occupation – such as the USEG – remained in effect. According to German Basic Law, the matter of Wiedergutmachung was subject to concurrent legislation, assigning the legislative competence to the German Länder as long as the federal authorities refrained from taking action themselves. The German federal government first left the way clear for the Länder. It was not until the signing of the Luxembourg Agreement and of the Hague Protocols on September 10, 1952, that victims organizations, the German Bundestag, and the allied powers started to raise their voices and pressed for a change of policy. 

Facing the imminent end of the legislative period, the German government had no time to spare. The Federal Minister of Finance, whose department had assumed responsibility for all Wiedergutmachung matters, adopted a wait and see attitude because of the potential budgetary burden – contrary to his colleague, the Federal Minister of Justice, who kept pushing the issue. On September 18, 1953, the hastily prepared “Additional Federal Compensation Act” (BGBl. 1953 I, pp. 1387–1408 PDF) passed the Bundestag. It entered into force on October 1, 1953.

Bonn, March 28, 1953 Federal Minister of Finance Fritz Schäfer Bonn Dear Mr. Schäffer! In my opinion, we cannot avoid finalizing the Reparations Act in this legislative period. Shall we have a chat about it? Yours sincerely, Mr. Dehler. Mr. Schäffer marked the letter in green with his vidimization stroke on 30 March 1953.
Letter by the Federal Minister of Justice, Thomas Dehler, to the Federal Minister of Finance, Fritz Schäffer, dated from March 18, 1953, referring to the preparation of the “Additional Federal Compensation Act”. | BArch, B 126/51549

The Act adhered closely to the USEG provisions. It also adopted the territorial principle, excluding claims of non-German victims: According to the Additional Federal Compensation Act, only those persecuted persons were entitled to compensation who on January 1, 1947, had their residence or permanent abode within the present territory of the Federal Republic of Germany or in (West) Berlin. Even though the act included exceptional provisions for e.g. repatriates, Soviet zone refugees, and displaced persons, it deprived the majority of persecuted victims of their right to compensation. So-called “Nationalverfolgte“, for example, were entitled to compensation only to a limited extent. The right to compensation neither existed for victims residing in states, with which the Federal Republic of Germany did not maintain diplomatic relations. The beginning of the Cold War also affected the provisions concerning communist applicants and victims opposing the “liberal democratic basic order” (§1 par. 4 no. 4 BErgG).

Dear friend Dehler, in your letter of March 28, 1953, you wrote to me that we will probably not be able to avoid completing the Reparations Act during this legislative period. How the Bundestag is to do this alongside the other urgent bills is still quite unclear to me. How the Finance Minister is to find the money is not at all unclear to me. That is impossible for the time being. But I'm quite happy for us to talk, perhaps after April 7, 1953.
Reply of the Federal Minister of Finance, Fritz Schäffer, to the Federal Minister of Justice, Thomas Dehler, dated from March 31, 1953. | BArch, B 126/51549

The Länder were responsible for implementing the act and for establishing the appropriate authorities (Overview of the staff of the Land compensation authorities in 1955 PDF, in: BArch, B 126/9885; see also in 1958 PDF, in 1960 PDF and in 1969 PDF, in: BArch, B 126/61074). They were only able to issue the necessary executive provisions step-by-step, initially limiting the victims’ options to apply for compensation. The first three executive ordinances regulated the important aspects of damage to life (BGBl. 1954 I, pp. 271–278 PDF), damage to body or health (BGBl. 1954 I, pp. 510–514 PDF), and damage to professional and economic progress (BGBl. 1955 I, pp. 157–165 PDF).

Federal Compensation Act (BEG)

The German Bundestag and Bundesrat had accepted the Additional Federal Compensation Act only under the premise that the German government presented a comprehensive reform of the act during the following legislative period (1953–1957), taking into account the various concerns left out in the over-hasty negotiations. 

A working group of Bundestag and Bundesrat members assembled to address this task. In June 1956, both parliamentary bodies adopted the revised Federal Compensation Act after tense cross-party debates. The Federal President of Germany signed and promulgated the act as an amendment to the Additional Federal Compensation Act on June 29, 1956 (BGBl. 1956 I, pp. 559–596 PDF). The amendment (framework legislation) became effective as of April 1, 1956. The Federal Compensation Act, which was attached to the amendment, came into force retroactively on October 1, 1953. It outlined the essence of German Wiedergutmachung legislation.

Although the Federal Compensation Act adhered to the basic principles of compensation laid down in its predecessor act, it brought considerable improvements for those affected. The extension of the cut-off date (for residence within German territory) from January 1, 1947, to December 31, 1952, increased the number of victims entitled to compensation. The right to compensation now also included those who emigrated, were deported or expelled before December 31, 1952, and had their last place of residence or permanent abode within the territory of the German Reich of December 31, 1937. The basic principle of subjective territoriality, however, remained unaffected. Further improvements included i.e. the inheritability of claims. In addition, the distribution of burdens between the federal state and the Länder was reorganized. 

Various amendments and executive provisions followed (BGBl. 1957 I, p. 663 PDF; BGBl. 1957 I, p. 1250 PDF). They regulated the reimbursement of insurance payments to insurance companies (BGBl. 1957 I, p. 281 PDF) and listed the pension institutions recognized as forcibly dissolved by National Socialist acts of violence (BGBl. 1957 I, p. 531 PDF).


Final Federal Compensation Act

The Final Federal Compensation Act ("Second Act Amending the Federal Compensation Act”) of September 14, 1965, included another one hundred modifications and amendments. The Jewish Claims Conference had campaigned beforehand for “post-fifty-three”-cases, meaning victims of National Socialist persecution who – according to the BEG – were denied the right to compensation because they emigrated from Eastern bloc countries (mostly to Israel) not until October 1, 1953. Based on article V of the Final Federal Compensation Act, the German legislators launched a special fund for this group of victims. Further modifications facilitated access to pension payments in case of damage to body or health, extended survivors’ benefits and increased compensation payments in case of damage to education. The deadline for submitting an application for compensation was finalized – pursuant to the wording of the act – to December 31, 1969. 

On February 23, 1967, the sixth executive ordinance of the BEG was enacted. It identified the concentration camps officially recognized according to the definition of § 31 par. 2 BEG (BGBl. 1967 I, pp. 233–254 PDFcurrent version).

Compensation Beyond BEG Jurisdiction until 1990

Under certain circumstances, victims of National Socialist persecution excluded from the Federal Compensation Act were able to receive compensation payments in accordance with hardship or other statutory provisions. These exceptional regulations intended to alleviate the high number of hardship cases particularly caused by the territorial principle. At the beginning, the German administration was in charge of allocating the benefits. Later, it often assigned this task to successor organizations who received the necessary financial means on the basis of global agreements. 


Extra-statutory Hardship Provisions

Compensation for victims of pseudo-medical experiments

On July 26, 1951, the German federal government decided to make amends to survivors of pseudo-medical experiments carried out in the concentration camps (BArch, B 136/1153, pp. 28–41, and 52 PDF). The decision also resulted from the media coverage of the Nuremberg Doctor’s Trial having started in 1947. Foreign nationals living in Western Europe, who were not entitled to compensation due to the territorial principle, received allowances. The Federal Ministry of Finance decided on their allocation in cooperation with an interdepartmental committee and with a medical expert from the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Cabinet decisions of June 22, 1960 (BArch, B 136/58687, pp. 22–32 PDF), November 23, 1960 (BArch, B 136/58687, pp. 34–41 PDF), and April 7, 1961 (BArch, B 136/58687, pp. 42–47, 50, 52 PDF), granted access to the hardship funds also to victims living in the Eastern bloc. The independent and neutral International Commission of the Red Cross based in Geneva administered the allocation of hardship grants. In 1961 and 1972, the German government also agreed upon global compensation payments for former Yugoslavia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.

Financial support for the „Hilfswerk 20. Juli 1944“

Another provision addressed the resistance fighters of the 20 July plot. Co-plotters and descendants of the resistance group around Lieutenant Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg received assistance by the German federal government already before the adoption of a universal compensation provision for public-sector employees (BWGöD). On October 2, 1951, the cabinet members voted in favor of annual payments to the “Hilfswerk 20. Juli 1944” (Cabinet minutes of the Federal Government online version; letter from Lehr to Schäffer on October 31, 1951, in: BArch, B 126/120162 PDF). The budget committee approved of the provision on March 28, 1952 (Excerpt from the summary minutes of the 170th session of the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag, March, 28, 1952, in: BArch, B 126/120162 PDF).

Hardship fund for non-Jewish victims persecuted on racial grounds (HNG Fund) and fund for persons affected by the Nuremberg laws

In 1952, in the context of the Luxembourg Agreement and the Hague Protocols, the German government launched a hardship fund particularly for persons persecuted as Jews under the National Socialist racist ideology although they were not of Jewish faith. Since the Jewish Claims Conference only felt responsible for representing Jews belonging to a Jewish community, the German federal cabinet decided to establish the so-called “HNG” fund on July 15, 1952 (Cabinet minutes of the Federal Government online version). The “Directive on the Disbursement of Resources for Individual Welfare Measures from the Hardship Fund for Non-Jewish Victims of National Socialism (HNG Fund)” of January 3, 1962, regulated the allocation of the payments particularly after the adoption of the Federal Compensation Law (BAnz no. 7, January 11, 1961, pp. 1–2 PDF).

Compensation for Jewish members of the British Armed Forces from the former British mandate of Palestine who were held as prisoners of war in Greece

On June 13, 1959, the German government and various veterans’ associations agreed upon a global compensation payment for 1,400 Jewish members of the British Armed Forces from the former mandate of Palestine who had been held captive by the German Wehrmacht in Greece (BArch, B 136/1150, pp. 263–267, 270 et seqq. PDF). Due to the territorial principle, the former prisoners of war were not entitled to compensation. They had fought in special units and had suffered from inhumane conditions in Greek internment camps.

Hardship provision for victims living in Israel who suffered damages at the Vapniarka Concentration Camp

On August 1, 1959, the German government adopted a hardship provision on humanitarian grounds for victims living in Israel who suffered damages at the Vapniarka concentration camp in Transnistria (BArch, B 136/3307, pp. 3–6, 10 PDF). Former camp inmates, who in 1942/1943 had suffered permanent damage of health (lathyrism) after the intake of a poisonous pea species in the provided animal fodder, received a one-time compensation payment. 

Hardship payments for victims of forced sterilization 

Victims who underwent forced sterilization under the National Socialist regime usually did not fulfil the requirements for compensation payments under the Federal Compensation Act or under the General Act Regulating Compensation for War-induced Losses. In 1980, the German government cleared the way for these victims to apply for a one-time compensation payment, given that they had not received any compensation so far (Annotation Dept. VI A 4 [BMF], December 15, 1980, in: BArch, B 126/109431 PDF; BT-Drucksache 10/6287, p. 37 PDF).

Hardship Fund 

When the options for compensation were drawing to a close with the Final Federal Compensation Act, the number of denied applications increased. Mostly Jewish victims, who had emigrated “too late” from Eastern Europe, were affected. The German federal government allocated money for these hardships also on the grounds of the corresponding Bundestag resolution of December 14, 1979 (BT-Drucksache 8/3511 PDF). The Jewish Claims Conference received 400 million Deutsche Mark to assign one-time or ongoing payments according to the “Federal Government Directives on Payments to Persecuted Jews to Compensate for Individual Hardships within the Context of Restitution” of October 3, 1980  (BAnz no. 192, October 14, 1980, p. 1 PDF).

Hardship directives for non-Jewish victims, Compensation Reserve Fund 

The German government used the remaining 100 million Deutsche Mark to grant payments according to the „Directives on Payments to Persecuted Non-Jews to Compensate for Individual Hardships within the Context of Restitution “ of August, 26, 1981 (BAnz no. 160, , August 29, 1981, p. 1. PDF). The directives also permitted the Federal Minister of Finance to launch a “Compensation Reserve Fund” for special cases with 20 percent of the sum. An amendment to the directives of March 7, 1988 (BAnz no. 55, March 19, 1988 PDF) extended this option. Especially Sinti and Roma and Spanish people, who had fought for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and had suffered persecution by the National Socialists in occupied France, received payments from the Reserve Fund. 

AKG Hardship Directives

The “AKG Hardship Directives” addressed the so-called forgotten victims who started to capture public attention in the 1980s. Many of these victims had been denied compensation payments because they did not fulfil the requirements of the Federal Compensation Act or of the General Act Regulating Compensation for War-Induced Losses: victims of euthanasia, of National Socialist jurisdiction, homosexuals, “criminals”, “workshy people” and many more. 

After a corresponding Bundestag decision of December 3, 1987 (German Bundestag. Stenographic Reports. 11. WP, pp. 3193–3219 PDF), the German government enacted directives “on hardship compensation to victims of National Socialist injustice under the General Act Regulating Compensation for War-induced Losses (AKG Hardship Directives)” (BAnz no. 55, March 19, 1988, p. 1277 et seqq. PDF) on March 7, 1988. Victims received one-time allowances or – if necessary – monthly hardship payments in case of serious damage to health or of serious financial distress.


Compensation Beyond BEG Legislation

Public servants

Even before the enactment of the Federal Compensation Act, the German government passed the “Act Governing Compensation for National Socialist Injustice for Public-Sector Employees (BWGöD)” on May 11, 1952 (BGBl. 1951 I, pp. 291–296 PDF). One of the reasons why the legislators prioritized the interests of public-service employees was the “Act Regulating the legal relations of persons covered by Article 131 of the Basic Law” (BGBl. 1951 I, pp. 307–322 PDF), which was promulgated on the same day. The so-called “Act G 131” set the course for the reinstatement of people employed in public service between 1933 and 1945, even if they had not suffered persecution. Unequal treatment of public servants persecuted by the National Socialist regime would not have been acceptable. For reasons of equal treatment, the BWGöD provided for large compensation payments exceeding those granted according to the USEG. Almost one year later, on March 18, 1952, another act (BGBl. 1952 I, p. 137 et seqq. PDF) cleared the way for compensation for public servants who had emigrated from the German Reich after 1933 and were now living abroad.

Employees of Jewish communities or other Jewish public institutions

Due to the constitutional separation of public and religious employees, former employees of Jewish communities and other Jewish public institutions in the German Reich (within the borders of December 31, 1937) and their surviving dependents were first excluded from payments under the "Act Governing Compensation for National Socialist Injustice for Public-Sector Employees (BWGöD)" (BGBl. 1951 I, pp. 291–296 PDF). For this reason, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Jewish Claims Conference agreed on a special provision in Section I No. 9 of the first Hague Protocol (BGBl. 1953 II, pp. 85–92 PDF). On April 9, 1953, the Federal Ministry of the Interior issued corresponding guidelines (Gemeinsames Ministerialblatt 1953, pp. 117–118 PDF), and established a separate "Federal Office for Compensation of Employees of Jewish Communities" in Cologne.

The Third Act Amending the BWGöD of December 23, 1955 (BGBl. 1955 I, pp. 820–834 PDF) put the previous regulations on a legal basis through Section 31 d. The corresponding executive ordinance of July 6, 1956 (BGBl. 1956 I, pp. 643–646 PDF) largely complied with the 1953 guidelines. The tasks of the "Federal Office for Compensation of Employees of Jewish Communities" moved to the "Federal Office for Administrative Affairs of the Federal Minister of the Interior", the later Federal Office of Administration. The former employees and their surviving dependants were entitled to monthly pension payments based on their former salaries from October 1, 1952 onwards. Nevertheless, the did not receive the full right for compensation according to the BWGöD.

The provisions not only affected employees of the Jewish communities. It also included civil servants and employees working in a large number of Jewish institutions. The annex to the "Ordinance on a Revision of the Ordinance on the Implementation of Section 31 d of the Act Governing Compensation for National Socialist Injustice for Public-Sector Employees" of April 2, 1963 (BGBl. 1963 I, pp. 182–189 PDF) lists, among others, 173 other Jewish public institutions.

Compensation for National Socialist injustice for war victims

Elderly veterans of the First World War also received compensation payments in case they had lost their due assistance and pensions because of National Socialist persecution. The War Victims’ Pensions Act for veterans residing abroad was adopted on August 3, 1953 (BGBl. 1953 I, pp. 843–845 PDF), and came into force with retroactive effect from October 1, 1950. A similar act of June 25, 1958 (BGBl. 1958 I, p. 412 et seqq. PDF) was valid for veterans living in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Emergency assistance within the scope of burden equalization

The “Equalization of Burdens Act” of August 14, 1952 (BGBl. 1952 I, pp. 446–533 PDF) not only provided for the transfer of wealth between those severely or less severely affected by war and expulsion. It also determined that under certain circumstances victims were still able to receive or apply for payments according to the Emergency Aid Act.

General Act Regulating Compensation for War-Induced Losses

The “Act on the General Settlement of Damages Resulting from the War and the Collapse of the German Reich (General Act Regulating Compensation for War-induced Losses) of November 5, 1957 (BGBl. 1957 I, pp. 1747–1777 PDF) eventually alleviated damages of victims who were not entitled to compensation under the BEG since they lacked the required status as persecuted person. Victims of forced sterilization, Sinti and Roma, and other “forgotten victims” received compensation, albeit on a low level and with a rather short deadline for application until December 31, 1958.

Social insurance 

The pioneering Act on the Treatment of Victims of National Socialist Persecution in the Area of Social Security” originated from the time of occupation on August 11, 1949. After the German pension reform of 1957, the Pension Insurance Reform Acts for workers, employees, and miners absorbed the former provisions (BGBl. 1957 I, pp. 45–87 PDF, 88–132 PDF or else 533–568 PDF). Persecuted persons who had emigrated our been deprived of their citizenship and had not returned to Germany regained their pension rights according to the Acts on Foreign Pensions and Pensions Payable Abroad of August 7, 1953 (BGBl . 1953 I, pp. 848–856 PDF) and of February 25, 1960 (BGBl. 1960 I, pp. 93–128 PDF). Both brought about considerable improvements for the victims. On December 22, 1970, the "Act Amending and Supplementing Provisions on Compensation of National Socialist Injustice in the Social Insurance System" (BGBl. 1970 I, pp. 1846-1851 PDF) revised and consolidated the provisions.

Compensation After 1990

After the German reunification, the Länder of former East Germany adopted the Wiedergutmachung legislation of the Federal Republic of Germany, since the GDR had not made amends to victims of National Socialist persecution within the meaning of the BEG (Soviet Occupation Zone and GDR). In an exchange of notes with the former occupying powers of September 27/28, 1990 (BGBl. 1990 II, pp. 1386–1389 PDF), the Federal Republic of Germany declared not only to hold on to the Wiedergutmachung payments guaranteed in the Transition Treaty of 1952 and 1954 (BGBl. 1955 II, S. 405–468 PDF). It also ensured that the compensation and restitution provisions also applied to victims in the territory of the former GDR. Pushed by a changing view on Eastern Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain, previously neglected groups of victims started to take center stage in the public debates of reunified Germany.

New German Länder

Even before the German reunification, the GDR honorary pensions for "Fighters against Fascism" and for "Victims of Fascism" were converted to Deutsche Mark in the same amount according to the Pension Equalization Act of June 28, 1990 (GBl. DDR 1990 I, pp. 495–500 PDF). In the Unification Treaty of August 31, 1990 (BGBl. 1990 II p. 889-1245 online version), both sides agreed that the honorary pensions would continue to apply until no later than December 31, 1991. The treaty also brought the Federal Compensation Act in line with the foreign policy agenda; this had, however, no practical effect due to the expired deadlines.

The "Act on Compensation for Victims of National Socialism in the Regions Acceding to the Federal Republic (Compensation Pensions Act) of April 22, 1992 (BGBl. 1992 I, pp. 906–908 PDF) brought about a pension reform for the territory of the former GDR. It provided for the continued payment of honorary pensions as compensation pensions without drawing a distinction between fighters and victims. Victims of National Socialist persecution also had the opportunity to submit a new application in cases they had previously been denied an honorary pension. Victims who had been persecuted within the meaning of the BEG but had not received any compensation payments so far were allowed to apply for compensation payments according to the “Guidelines on Supplementary Compensation for Victims of National Socialism in the Regions Acceding to the Federal Republic” of May 13, 1992 (BAnz no. 95, May 22, 1992, p. 4186 PDF).

Other Groups of Victims

Compensation for forced labor

After the collapse of the Eastern bloc, compensation for former forced laborers, living by a majority in Eastern Europe, caused heated debates not only in the German public sphere. In addition, a wave of lawsuits arose against German companies that had employed forced laborers during the Second World War.

Eight men in suits sitting next to each other at a table, with documents lying in front of them. Behind them, a woman and a man standing with a TV camera from ZDF.
Negotiations on compensation for forced laborers, chaired by former Federal Minister Otto Graf Lambsdorff (4th from right), the Federal Chancellor's representative for the Foundation Initiative of the German industry, and the US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Eizenstat (5th from right) at the German Foreign Office in Bonn on August 26, 1999. | Bundesregierung, B 145 Bild-00161014 / Reineke, Engelbert

Against this background, negotiations started between representatives of the German industry (Foundation Initiative), the governments of the Federal Republic of Germany, of the United States, the Czech Republic, Israel, Poland, Russia, and of the Ukraine, and the Jewish Claims Conference and the lawyers involved. On July 17, 2000, the negotiations resulted in an intergovernmental agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America (BGBl. 2000 II, pp. 1372–1388 PDF) on the establishment of a foundation for the compensation of forced labor. The agreement included an exchange of notes and statements of both parties. The German Bundestag passed the required act on the creation of a foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future (EVZ)” on July 6, 2000, which came into effect on August 2, 2000 (BGBl. 2000 I, pp. 1263–1269 PDF).

An elderly man, Siegfried Grünbaum, and an elderly lady sitting in a conference room. The man has his arms outstretched in explanation. Other people can be seen in the background.
Siegfried Grünbaum (right), a surviving forced laborer, answers journalists' questions during the press conference of the Jewish Claims Conference in Frankfurt am Main on June 22, 2001. | picture alliance / REUTERS / Ralph Orlowski

Funded in equal parts by the German industry and the German government, the Foundation's Future Fund granted compensation payments to former forced laborers and for other personal injury suffered in connection with National Socialist injustice. The Foundation and its partner organizations allocated the payments upon application. The payments ended in early 2007.

Ghetto Pensions Act

Aside from forced laborers, ghetto workers started to attract public attention. Ghetto work did not qualify as forced labor and was ignored by social insurance legislation. The first “Act Regarding the Conditions for Making Pensions Payable on the Basis of Employment in a Ghetto” of June 20, 2002 (BGBl. 2002 I, p. 2074 et seq. PDF) stipulated such stringent terms for pension applications that practically all of them failed. This only changed with the Ghetto Work Recognition Directives of October 1, 2007 (BAnz no. 186, October 5, 2007, p. 7693 et seqq. PDF) and their revised versions of July 30, 2011 (BAnz no. 110, July 26, 2011, p. 2624 PDF) and of December 20, 2011 (BAnz no. 195, December 28, 2011, p. 4608 et seq. PDF). The amendment of the Ghetto Pensions Act of August 1, 2014 (BGBl. 2014 I, p. 952 PDF) also facilitated the application procedure. 

AKG Hardship Directives

On March 7, 1988, the federal government had adopted the AKG Hardship Directives as final provision for the benefit of those persecuted persons who did not fulfil the requirements of Sections 1 and 2 of the BEG. On March 2, 2011, it initiated a revision of these “Directives on hardship compensation to victims of National Socialist injustice under the General Act Regulating Compensation for War-induced Losses”. The amendment was published on March 28, 2011 (BAnz no. 52, April 1, 2011, p. 1229 et seqq. PDFcurrent version).

Former Soviet prisoners of war

Soviet prisoners of war had suffered from particularly inhumane conditions under the National Socialist regime. It was not until the ASK Recognition Directive of May 21, 2015 (BAnz AT, October 14, 2015 B1 PDF), that they received a first symbolic one-time payment. The deadline for submitting an application ended in 2017.

Victims of National Socialist military judiciary

On December 17, 1997, at the instigation of the German Bundestag (German Bundestag. Stenographic Reports 13. WP, pp. 15811–15830 PDF), the German government adopted “instructions for the final settlement of the rehabilitation and compensation of individuals convicted during the Second World War for inciting disobedience, conscientious objection or desertion“ (BAnz no. 2, January 6, 1998, p. 41 PDF). This offered individuals who were convicted of the above-mentioned offences the opportunity of a one-time compensation payment not offsettable against payments under the AKG Hardship Directives. The deadline for submitting an application expired by the end of 1999. Applications were successful in more than 500 cases.