Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany

The Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany (German: "Luxemburger Abkommen", Hebrew: "הסכם השילומים") was signed on September 10, 1952.USHMM: " [ Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signs the reparations agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel] ", USHMM photograph #11019. URL last accessed 2006-12-13] and entered in force on March 27, 1953.Honig, F.: " [ The Reparations Agreement between Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany] ", "American Journal of International Law 48(4)", October 1954. URL last accessed 2006-12-13.] According to the Agreement, West Germany was to pay Israel for the slave labor and persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, and to compensate for Jewish property that was stolen by the Nazis.


The Claims Conference

According to the website of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or Claims Conference, "In response to calls from Jewish organizations and the State of Israel, in September 1951 Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of West Germany addressed his Parliament:`… unspeakable crimes have been committed in the name of the German people, calling for moral and material indemnity … The Federal Government are prepared, jointly with representatives of Jewry and the State of Israel … to bring about a solution of the material indemnity problem, thus easing the way to the spiritual settlement of infinite suffering.'

"One month after Adenauer’s speech, Dr. Nahum Goldmann, co-chairman of the Jewish Agency {For Israel] and president of the World Jewish Congress, convened a meeting in New York City of 23 major Jewish national and international organizations. The participants made clear that these talks were to be limited to discussion of material claims, and thus the organization that emerged from the meeting was called the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany — the Claims Conference. The Board of Directors of the new Conference consisted of groups that took part in its formation, with each member agency designating two members to the Board.

"The Claims Conference had the task of negotiating with the German government a program of indemnification for the material damages to Jewish individuals and to the Jewish people caused by Germany through the Holocaust."

Israel's dilemma

Following the Holocaust, Israel's relations with Germany were very tense. Israel was intent on taking in what remained of European Jewry. Israel was also recovering from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and was facing a deep economic crisis which led to a policy of austerity. Unemployment was very high (especially in the ma'abarot camps) and foreign currency reserves were scarce.Cite web
title = סיקור ממוקד : הויכוח סביב הסכם השילומים
accessdate = 2007-12-11
url =
] David Ben-Gurion and his Mapai party took a practical approach and argued that accepting the agreement was the only way to sustain the nation’s economy. "There are two approaches", he told the Mapai central committee. "One is the ghetto Jew's approach and the other is of an independent people. I don't want to run after a German and spit in his face. I don't want to run after anybody. I want to sit here and build here. I'm not going to go to America to take part in a vigil against Adenauer.” Cite news
last = Barnea
first = Nahum
title = Ben-Gurion's word
work = Ynetnews
accessdate = 2007-12-11
url =,7340,L-3439653,00.html


The Negotiations were held between Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

In 1951, Israeli authorities made a claim to the four powers occupying post-war Germany regarding compensation and reimbursement, based on the fact that Israel had absorbed and resettled 500,000 Holocaust survivors. They calculated that since absorption had cost 3,000 dollars a person, they were owed 1.5 billion dollars by Germany. They also figured that six billion dollars worth of Jewish property had been pillaged by the Nazis, but stressed that the Germans could never make up for what they did with any type of material recompense. Negotiations leading to the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany began in March 1952, and were conducted between representatives of the government of the Federal Republic, the government of the State of Israel, and representatives of the World Jewish Congress, headed by Dr. Goldmann. These discussions led to a bitter controversy in Israel, with the coalition government, headed by David Ben-Gurion, claimed that reparations were necessary to restore what was stolen from the victims of the Holocaust.


Public debate was among the fiercest in Israeli history. Opposition to the agreement came from both the right (Herut and the General Zionists) and the left (Mapam) of the political spectrum; both sides argued that accepting reparation payments was the equivalent of forgiving the Nazis for their crimes.

On 5 November 1951, Yaakov Hazan of Mapam said in the Knesset: "Nazism is rearing its ugly head again in Germany, and our so-called Western 'friends' are nurturing that Nazism; they are resurrecting Nazi Germany.... Our army, the Israel Defense Forces, will be in the same camp as the Nazi army, and the Nazis will begin infiltrating here not as our most terrible enemies, but rather as our allies...”Cite news
last = Sarid
first = Yossi
title = Israel's great debate
work = Haaretz
accessdate = 2007-12-11
url =

At a session of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in September 1952, Yitzhak Ben-Aharon, then a Mapam MK, stated, "I am not assuming that there are people who believe that Germany will pay a total of three billion marks, over a period of 12 years, and that this is no empty promise.... The Israeli government will obtain nothing but a piece of paper referring to three billion marks. And all this is only intended to mislead the public and claim the government has attained....".

The rally

Anticipating the debate in the Knesset on 7 January 1952, all adjacent roads were blocked. Roadblocks and wire fences were set up around the building and the IDF was alert to suppress a mutiny. The rally, gathered by the agreement's opponents drew 15,000 people and the riots that ensued would be the most significant attempt in Israeli history to overturn a democratically-made Knesset decision. The decision was ultimately accepted by 61-50 margin, but not before the advancing riots interrupted the plenum debate for the first time in the Knesset history.

Following a passionate and dramatic speech, Menachem Begin led the protesters towards the Knesset. The demonstration turned violent as protesters began throwing stones at the building’s windows while the police used force to disperse them. After 5 hours of riots, the police took control of the situation using hoses and tear gas. Hundreds were arrested; about 200 protesters and 140 policemen were injured.

Further protests

The decision did not end the protests, and in October 1952 Dov Shilansky was arrested near the Minister of Foreign Affairs office, carrying a pack of dynamite. In his trial he was accused of being a member of an underground against the Reparations Agreement and was sentenced to 21 months in prison. A parcel bomb sent to Adenauer killed the sapper who handled it. It was argued to have been sent by Irgun alumni, although that was never proved.Cite web
last = Barkat
first = Amiram
title = Book links Begin to 1952 plot to kill then-German Chancellor Adenauer
work = informationliberation
accessdate = 2007-12-11
url =


Despite the protests, the agreement was signed in September of that year, and West Germany paid Israel a sum of 3 billion marks over the next fourteen years; 450 million marks were paid to the World Jewish Congress. The payments were made to the State of Israel as the heir to those victims who had no surviving family. The money was invested in the country's infrastructure and played an important role in establishing the economy of the new state. The reparations would become a decisive part of Israel's income, comprising as high as 87.5% of the state income in 1956.

Yad Vashem noted that "in the 1990s, Jews began making claims for property stolen in Eastern Europe. Various groups also began investigating what happened to money deposited in Swiss banks by Jews outside of Switzerland who were later murdered in the Holocaust, and what happened to money deposited by various Nazis in Swiss banks. In addition, individual companies (many of them based in Germany) began to be pressured by survivor groups to compensate former forced laborers. Among them are Deutsche Bank AG, Siemens AG, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW), Volkswagen AG, and Adam Opel GmbH. In response, early in 1999, the German government proclaimed the establishment of a fund with monies from these companies to help needy Holocaust survivors. A similar fund was set up by the Swiss, as was a Hungarian fund for compensation of Holocaust victims and their heirs. At the close of the 1990s, discussions of compensation by insurance companies that had insured Jews before the war and who were later murdered by the Nazis were held. These companies include Alliance, AXA, Assicurazioni Generali, Zürich Financial Services Group, Winterhur, and Baloise Insurance Group. With the help of information about Holocaust victims made available by Yad Vashem, an international commission under former US Secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, has been trying to uncover the names of those who had been insured and died in the Holocaust.The World Jewish Restitution Organization was created to organize these efforts. On behalf of US citizens, the US Foreign Claims Settlement Commission reached agreements with the German government in 1998 and 1999 to compensate Holocaust victims who immigrated to the US after the war."

Reopened claims

In 2007, Israeli MK Rafi Eitan made suggestions that were interpreted as a claim to reopen the agreement, although he insisted that he merely intended to “establish a German-Israeli work team that would examine how Germany could help the financially struggling survivors”.Cite news
last = Paz
first = Shelly
title = Survivors demand more financial aid from Germany
work = Jerusalem Post
accessdate = 2007-12-13
url =
] German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück originally argued Germany would not consider expanding the agreement,Cite web
title = German minister: Reparations deal not up for renegotiation
work = Haaretz
accessdate = 2007-12-13
url =
] but later German government spokesman Thomas Steg said that Germany was willing to discuss the possibility of making extra pension payments to Holocaust survivors if the Israeli government makes an official request.Cite news
last = Pfeffer
first = Anshel
title = Germany says willing to discuss Holocaust survivors' pensions
work = Haaretz
accessdate = 2007-12-13
url =


Further reading

* Beker, Avi. 1970. Unmasking National Myths: Europeans Challenge Their History. Jerusalem: Institute of the World Jewish Congress.
* Bower, Tom. 1997. Nazi Gold: The Full Story of the Fifty-Year Swiss-Nazi Conspiracy to Steal Billions from Europe's Jews and Holocaust Survivors, . New York: Harper Collins.
* Carpozi, George. 1999. Nazi Gold: The Real Story of How the World Plundered Jewish Treasures. Far Hills: New Horizon.
* Geller, Jay Howard. 2005. Jews in Post-Holocaust Germany. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press.
* Levine, Itamar. 1997. The Fate of Jewish Stolen Properties: the Cases of Austria and the Netherlands. Jerusalem: Institute of the World Jewish Congress.
* Goldmann, Nahum. 1970. Staatsmann ohne Staat (Statesman Without a State, autobiography). Cologne: Kiepenheuer-Witsch.
* Goldmann, Nahum. 1969. The Autobiography of Nahum Goldmann;: Sixty Years of Jewish Life. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
* Goldmann, Nahum. 1978. The Jewish Paradox. Grosset & Dunlap.
* Goldmann, Nahum. 1982. Mein Leben als deutscher Jude [My Life as a German Jew] . Munich: Langen-Müller.
* Sagi, Nana. 1986. German Reparations: A History of the Negotiations. Palgrave Macmillan.
* Sayer, Ian and Douglas Botting. 1984. Nazi Gold: The Story of the World's Greatest Robbery and its Aftermath. London.
* Shafir, Shlomo. 1999. Ambiguous Relations: The American Jewish Community and Germany since 1945. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
* Vincent, Isabel. 1997. Hitler's Silent Partners: Swiss Banks, Nazi Gold, and the Pursuit of Justice. New York: Morrow.
* Ziegler, Jean. 1997. The Swiss, the Gold, and the Dead: How Swiss Bankers Helped Finance the Nazi War Machine. New York: Harcourt Brace.
* Zweig, Ronald W. 1987. German Reparations And The Jewish World : A History Of The Claims Conference. Boulder: Westview Press.

ee also

*Claims Conference
*International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims

External links

* [ German Holocaust Reparations]
* [ Website of the Claims Conference]
* [ Website of Yad Vashem]

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