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After the Wollheim Agreement: Payments to the Survivors

In the Wollheim Agreement it had been arranged that the Claims Conference would create a new agency, Compensation-Treuhandgesellschaft mbH, to deal with processing the applications for compensation submitted by Jewish survivors from Auschwitz, while at I.G. Farben i.L. the Department for Clearing and Settlement of Wage and Salary Claims (ALGA, Abwicklung Lohn- und Gehaltsansprüche) organized the payments to non-Jewish forced laborers.


Prior to the agreement, the survivors had succeeded in ensuring that only former Auschwitz prisoners would be responsible for screening the applications. Screening committees were formed in various countries, tasked with deciding whether the applications were credible on the basis of the commitee members’ own camp experiences. In the screening committee in New York, numerous survivors such as Simon Gutter, Norbert Wollheim, and Albert Kimmelstiel were responsible for the applications from the United States and Canada; a committee in Frankfurt am Main, one member of which was the survivor Franz Unikower, was in charge of various European countries; another committee was based in Israel; and in addition there were smaller committees in some other countries. The commissions took their work very seriously, and therefore the screenings were often difficult and time-consuming. The screeners checked to see whether and how long the applicants had done forced labor for I.G. Farben, whether they had been imprisoned in one of the camps named in the agreement—Buna/Monowitz, Fürstengrube, and Janinagrube—whether other prisoners had made serious accusations against them, and, of course, whether they belonged to the groups of persons eligible for benefits. To keep unentitled applicants from profiting from the agreements, the survivors were questioned extensively, witnesses were heard, and documents were verified. The victims directed special attention to ensuring that compensation was not paid to anyone who had participated as a Kapo or in other functions in crimes against prisoners.


The Claims Conference made sure that the victims in the West learned about the agreement, while the International Auschwitz Committee took primary responsibility in Eastern Europe for informing the survivors there.


Compensation Treuhand was supposed to distribute 27 million DM to the Jewish survivors, with I.G. Farben i.L. retaining 3 million for the corporation’s non-Jewish forced laborers. Soon, however, there were conflicts over who was to be regarded as a “Jewish victim of persecution.” To the Claims Conference it was clear that it could speak and act only for people who identified themselves as Jews; their primary criterion was membership in a Jewish community. The Claims Conference was unwilling to compensate, out of “its” pot, those survivors who had been persecuted by the Nazis as Jews for “racial” reasons but did not self-identify as Jews. That would be tantamount to a confirmation of the National Socialists’ racist categories, the Claims Conference believed. This attitude affected especially the Jewish victims of persecution from Eastern Europe, who for various reasons often were not members of Jewish communities or did not openly acknowledge their Jewishness. I.G. Farben i.L. finally had agreed, with reservations, to compensate this group as well. In 1962, when it could be foreseen that the 3 million DM would not be adequate for the group of non-Jews thus defined, I.G. Farben i.L. demanded that the Claims Conference pay back 2 million DM. After lengthy negotiations, the parties finally agreed in July 1963 on a repayment in the amount of 750,000 DM.


The Claims Conference’s goal of paying around 5,000 DM to each former Buna/Monowitz forced laborer was accomplished, at least for large groups of the survivors. The former prisoners who had worked for I.G. Farben for fewer than six months received 2,500 DM in two installments, usually several years apart, and the others received 5,000 DM.


At I.G. Farben, 2,956 applicaions[1] were received for screening. Of that number, only 1,118 had been decided by spring 1962, 404 applications were approved, and 1,410,500 DM had been paid out by that date. Thus the survivors often had to wait a long time before they actually received the agreed-upon compensation payments.


From its own pot, Compensation Treuhand made payments to 5,855 applicants, including 1,800 “hardship cases.” Thanks to interest income, it was able to pay 27,841,500 DM to Jewish prisoners of Monowitz or their surviving dependents.

(KS; transl. KL)


[pdf] Katharina Stengel_Competition for Scant Funds_Jewish Polish and Communist Prisoners of Auschwitz in the Negotiations for the Wollheim Agreement



[pdf] Vordruck IG Farben – Benachrichtigung Entschädigungsberechtigter (in German; Archive of the Foundation “I.G. Farbenindustrie”)



Ferencz, Benjamin B.: Less Than Slaves: Jewish Forced Labor and the Quest for Compensation [1979]. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2002.

[1] The numerous “obviously unfounded applications,” such as those submitted by women or “foreign workers” (Fremdarbeiter), are not included in this count.