70 years after: Germany allocates €10mn for compensation to former Soviet POWs

Soviet prisoners of war being transported to Germany in 1941
(Image from wikipedia.org)
Berlin is preparing to pay compensation to about 4,000 surviving Soviet prisoners of war from WWII Nazi concentration camps. But 70 years on, the symbolic gesture is being seen as too little, too late.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and their Social Democrat partners have agreed to allocate the necessary sum from the government’s supplementary budget.

“The additional funding of €10 million [$11 million] has cleared the way to make compensation to nearly 4,000 surviving Soviet prisoners of the war, with about €2,500 [about $2,800] being accompanied by a letter, in which this great injustice will be recognized and our respect for the plight of those affected will be expressed,” Gernot Erler, Commissioner for Civil Initiatives of the German Foreign Ministry and German government coordinator for relations with Russia, told RIA Novosti.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also backed the initiative, which will be approved by the government once the Bundestag votes for it.

“In the view of Foreign Minister Steinmeier, it is a good initiative from the Bundestag, which he welcomes and supports,” Reuters quoted the German Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

Germany has made compensation payments to Nazi victims living in former Soviet states twice, in 1993 and 2000, yet former POWs received nothing, because the law did not mention prisoners of war as victims.

During WWII, about 5.3 million Soviet servicemen were taken prisoner, and only about 1.8 million returned home. Most of the POWs died in concentration camps because of inhumane conditions, as Nazi Germany did not apply the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war to Soviet soldiers.

Commemorating the end of WWII in May, German President Joachim Gauck once again emphasized that Germany’s responsibility for the deaths of Soviet prisoners had not been recognized by Germany in full.

In 2013, Der Spiegel reported on the German government’s commitment to pay €772 million ($1 billion) for home care of some 56,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide over the next four years. This compensation came as a result of negotiations between Berlin and the Israeli fund for Jewish victims of Nazi aggression.

Three years ago, the Times of Israel reported that overall between 1952 and 2012 Germany paid an estimated $89 billion in compensation for Nazi war crimes.