What Are Holocaust Restitution Payments?

Holocaust restitution payments are paid primarily by the governments of Germany and Austria to partly compensate victims of Nazi Germany and its allies. In addition to claims for persecution, restitution is also made to compensate for lost housing, destroyed businesses, and liquidated bank accounts. Since 1952, more than $70 billion has been paid to more than 800,000 victims of the Holocaust.

Key Takeaways

  • Holocaust restitution payments is money paid to people that were persecuted under Nazi Germany.
  • Since 1952, more than $70 billion has been paid to more than 800,000 victims of the Holocaust.
  • In the United States, Holocaust restitution payments are not taxable income at the federal level.
  • Holocaust restitution payments also do not count toward income when determining eligibility for federal benefits or services.

How Holocaust Restitution Payments Work

Holocaust restitution payments are not taxable as income at the federal level if the payment is received by someone who was persecuted by the Nazis on the basis of race, religion, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation—or collected by the heirs or estate of such a person. This includes reparation for property losses resulting from Nazi persecution.

In addition, under 1994 federal legislation, Holocaust compensation and restitution payments made to victims of Nazi persecution are excluded from calculations to determine eligibility for federally funded benefits or services. That includes Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps (SNAP), and federally-subsidized housing programs.

In the U.S., national banks and state-chartered regional institutions have also implemented fee waivers for Holocaust survivor payments. Participants include Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Dime Savings Bank, HSBC, Apple Bank, Independence Community Bank, Greenpoint Bank, Amalgamated, Brooklyn Federal, and Astoria Federal Savings.

Compensation Programs

A variety of programs have been made available to the survivors and heirs of the Holocaust, referred to as the period during the 1930s and 1940s when Germany and allied nations undertook a highly organized program to use the apparatus of government to systematically murder and enslave millions of Jews and others considered undesirable by the Nazi regime.

According to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), these programs include a Hardship Fund, Article 2 Fund, Child Survivor Fund, Orphan Fund, and a fund for heirs. There are also programs dedicated to survivors from specific countries, including Austria, Algeria, and the Czech Republic, as well as victims now living in the U.S.

Not all of these programs are still open to new claims and, depending on the country, there are varying deadlines and eligibility requirements.

The compensation picture continues to evolve. In 2018, the Claims Conference announced the availability of a separate fund for material compensation for Holocaust survivors and heirs in Romania.In 2019, Germany also agreed to extend payments to the spouses of Holocaust survivors, even after the survivor passes away.

Special Considerations

The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC) was established through negotiations between Jewish organizations, the State of Israel, U.S. and European insurers, and insurance regulators to handle claims for restitution payments. Between 1998 and when it ceased operation in 2007, ICHEIC processed more than $300 million in claims for more than 48,000 Holocaust survivors and their heirs.

As part of the multiparty agreements that established the ICHEIC, participating insurers were to be immune from lawsuits over claims in return for a much lower standard of evidence than would be required in legal proceedings. Nevertheless, in subsequent years claimants alleging entitlement to payments attempted to sue and to lobby the U.S. Congress to void insurer immunity.