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Germany court rules Holocaust survivors eligible for pensions

[JURIST] The Federal Social Court of Western Germany [official website, in German] ruled Tuesday that Jewish-German Holocaust [JURIST news archive] survivors as a class are eligible to collect old-age pension benefits. Specifically, the court found [DW report] that although the work performed by three particular Jewish pension claimants in connection with their concentration camp detentions during World War II was involuntary and not monetarily compensated, it nonetheless bore a sufficient relationship to a conventional employee-employer relationship [DPA report], solidifying the eligibility of Holocaust survivors for the receipt of old-age pensions. This ruling provides clear guidance in the legal debate prompted by pension scheme providers' systematic refusal [AFP report] to provide benefits to similarly situated German citizens on grounds that involuntary and non-conventionally compensated work does not count toward the requisite criteria for the receipt of old-age pensions. Pension providers have used this line of reasoning to circumvent a 1997 ruling by the same court in which concentration camp workers were given the broad right to recover pension benefits [Claimscon backgrounder, PDF]. The ruling was subsequently codified as the Ghetto Pension Act [text, in German] by the German parliament [official website, in German] in 2002, but pension providers continued to deny 90 percent of the Holocaust workers' applications for old-age benefits. Monday's ruling is much-welcomed by Jewish communities since the newly articulated eligibility criteria will enhance the ability of many elderly Holocaust survivors to apply for old-age benefits or to appeal their previously denied application for such pensions.

In November, the German parliament passed [JURIST report] a resolution [text, PDF, in German] seeking to counter anti-Semitism [JURIST news archive] in the country. The measure required the government to develop a report on anti-Semitic behavior and feelings in the country, and to provide funding for school programs designed to combat anti-Semitism. The US State Department now issues yearly reports [2008 report, text] to Congress on anti-Semitism around the world in the wake of former President George W. Bush's 2004 signing [JURIST report] of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 [text, PDF]. The Act created an anti-Semitism office within the State Department and mandated an annual review and report on global anti-Semitism, in much the same way that the Department already reported on human rights and religious freedom.

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