Though it has been nearly 75 since World War II ended, Germany is still paying the monthly pensions of people who collaborated with the Nazi government. This includes citizens of several European countries including Belgium and Britain.
The foreign affairs committee of the Belgian parliament voted to urge the German government to stop payment on these pensions and to publish a list of individuals who are currently receiving them.
According to the committee, there are almost thirty people in Belgium that are receiving the pensions. Adolf Hitler decreed that foreigners in Nazi-occupied countries were entitled to the same nationality and pension rights as German citizens as long as they pledged “allegiance, fidelity, loyalty and obedience” to the Führer.
Germany has resisted listing the recipients of the pensions. They claim to be concerned about the legal issues surrounding protection of privacy.
According to the five MPs who authored the resolution, the monthly payments are made by German states and that the names of the recipients are known to the German embassy in Brussels.
Germany responded by explaining that there are eighteen people in Belgium who are receiving the pensions. They further stated that none of the individuals are former Waffen-SS members.
The Waffen-SS was the military branch of the SS which was involved in many of the crimes committed in the Holocaust. Members of the Waffen-SS are accused of mass shootings, anti-partisan warfare, supplying guards for the concentration camps and many other war crimes.
The German embassy did not name any of the pensioners or elaborate on why they were entitled to the pensions.
The Belgian authorities are not aware of the identities of the pensioners. The authors of the resolution stated that the situation was the same in Britain where people are receiving pensions from the German government without any communication with the British authorities and with no taxes being levied on the amounts.
The German embassy in London stated that it had no information concerning these allegations.
RTBF, the Belgian state broadcaster, said that similar events were occurring in Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Historian Cees Kleijn has stated that there may be war criminals among the 34 people receiving the pensions in the Netherlands.
A Belgian researcher has determined that the payments range from €435 to €1,275 a month. The amounts depend on the amount of time the recipients had spent in prison after the war.
The Belgian MPs called this a morally problematic situation in that the German government is treating these people as any other German worker even if they have been convicted of actively participating in the war.
The decree by Hitler was not struck down during the Potsdam Conference in which delegates from the US, Britain, and the USSR all presided over the dismantling of the Nazi regime.
The Belgian government has been concerned about these payments ever since they discovered them in 1997. In 2012, the Belgian parliament found that there were approximately 2,500 Belgians receiving the pensions. Since that time, the majority have died.
A commission from the Belgian parliament visited Berlin last year to discuss the matter with the German authorities. They determined that the payments to most of the Belgian pensioners were paid from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The current German ambassador to Belgium, Martin Kotthaus, has said in an interview last year that there was an investigation underway to determine what connection the remaining pensioners had had with the Nazi party during the war.
German historian Martin Göllnitz has stated that he doesn’t believe the issue will be resolved anytime soon. Germany cannot perform a case-by-case study of the pension recipients without violating their own privacy laws. Further, the German social security system is not subject to criminal proceedings.
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