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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fund Pays Nazis' Slave Laborers

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Russian survivors of WWII Nazi concentration camps on Friday received their first compensation payments from a fund created by German government and industry as leaders hailed the closure of a black period in the two countries' relationship.

At a formal presentation ceremony in Moscow's House of People's Friendship, 10 former slave laborers received payouts of 7,500 Deutsche marks ($3,505), half of their 15,000-mark entitlement from the fund.

Germany is paying some 10 billion marks to almost two million survivors of Nazi slavery and forced labor in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Russian claimants are to share 835 million marks.

"This is serious material support because I am really in need now," The Associated Press quoted Yevdokia Dyomina, a childless 77-year-old widow, as saying. Leaning on a cane, tears in her eyes, Dyomina said she had suffered leg trouble ever since she was seized by the Nazis and sent to Germany at age 19. "[Now] I will be able to go somewhere to fix my health a bit," she said.

Michael Jansen, head of the German Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future Foundation, said the payments were in recognition of prisoners' and deportees' suffering under the Nazis and Germany's recognition of responsibility for crimes committed by Hitler's regime.

"I know that this cannot be the final word on the past, but we can open a new page in our relationship," he said at the ceremony, also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko, Labor Minister Alexander Pochinok, former concentration camp inmates and officials of the German foundation's Russian partner, the Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation Foundation.

Pochinok assured recipients the payouts would not be taxed.

Matviyenko said the money could not compensate for the suffering of former inmates, "but can be seen as a token of the new relationship between Germany and Russia," she said.

Irina Kharina, head of the Society of Former Concentration Camp Inmates, said she was glad that prisoners of war who had been in concentration camps would now also be entitled to payouts.

She and other former concentration camp inmates spoke of their sadness that the payments had come so long after the war and that many fellow inmates had not lived long enough to receive them. She pleaded for the payouts to be made in one tranche, rather than the planned two, because the survivors were so old that many would not live long enough to receive the second tranche.

The German foundation has allocated $5.2 million for the first list of 2,300 claimants approved by Berlin, said Kai Hennig, spokesman for the foundation.

While the 10 people who received payouts at Friday's ceremony got half of their total entitlement, claimants in other categories, are to receive only 35 percent of their entitlement in the first round of payouts. To this group, estimated to number slightly more than 7,000, will be added the previously ineligible former prisoners of war.

A second round of payouts will begin only after all those who have claimed payment by Dec. 31 are verified as eligible and receive their first payments. The process is expected to take four years.

About 30,000 people who were in captivity in Austria are entitled to similar payments from a 750 million Austrian schilling ($50 million) fund.