Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Polish Government to Pay Pension to Holocaust Survivors Around the World

New regulations make the pension more accessible to global victims

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: May 28th, 2014 in News » World

The Polish Government has declared that it will be changing its regulations, and restrictions, for Holocaust survivors or victims of the Nazis in World War II for the better.

Originally, only veterans and victims of oppression, of Polish descent, who had either a bank account in Poland or someone who could transfer them the funds, were eligible for a monthly pension.

Now, thanks to the new changes, people around the world who were victims in Poland during the second World War are able to receive their pension, regardless of whether or not they have a Polish bank account or know someone in the country.

Sebastian Rejak, the Polish foreign minister’s special envoy for relations with the Jewish Diaspora, explained the decision in an interview with The Times of Israel. “We received voices from people around the world who would be interested in acquiring that status of war veterans or oppressed people, but the obstacle, from their viewpoint, was the question of bank accounts and money transfers.”

Now, the Polish government is willing to take on the responsibility of wiring the money to survivors and veterans around the world. Rejak continued to explain that, “thousands would be eligible. The question is how many of them would be interested. But I don’t see any reason why anyone potentially interested wouldn’t want to apply.”

People who are eligible include veterans, victims of concentration camps, labor camps, transit camps or those who were forced to go into hiding, and children taken away from their parents due to extermination or Germanization. Children who were born of Polish families, but taken away and raised in Russia will also qualify for this pension, even if their parents are deceased.

Those looking to apply for the pension will have to provide documentation, however this can include archival records from museums or the Yad Vashem, and even eyewitness testimony as to a person’s status during the war. “It has to be established that you were born a Polish citizen and suffered during the war in occupied Poland or some other place because you had to leave Poland, or you were born after the war to a family that was forced to leave Poland during the war, so as a child you actually shared in their lot, in their fate of oppression. That’s what makes you eligible,” said Rejak during the interview.

Rejak continued to explain that the goal of this is to help all those who suffered during the Holocaust and help bring some justice to the families who suffered in their country during the war. Although those eligible for the pension can be of any denomination or cultural background, they are acting with a “special sensitivity” for Jewish victims. As he put it, “To quote Elie Wiesel: ‘Not every victim was a Jew, but every Jew was a victim.’ So Jewish victims have to be looked at with special attention when we talk about World War II — that goes without saying. Their legal status is the same — it’s a question of sensitivity and reaching out.”

The changes go into effect for members of the European Union this coming October, while survivors around the world can expect to be eligible come April of 2015. For more information on eligibility about the pension, or to find out how to apply, check out the Office For War Veterans And Victims Of Oppression’s website.

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