Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Recently, I was following a discussion on Facebook about reparations from the German Government to people who suffered in the concentration and slave labor camps in Nazi Germany. 

The discussion centered around whether or not financial reparations can actually compensation for that suffering.

The answer seems obvious to me, but let me tell you anyway.

There are no repayments, no restitution for what happened.

My mother was in the camps from 1942 on, my dad was in Buchenwald from 40 on.

She got a lump sum from the German government of about 1500 bucks and a monthly allowance starting in 1990 or so of $32 per month. When she died in 2006, the monthly check had increased to about $87.

The Germans were never able to find my father's paper work from his time as a slave laborer, so they said he had no proof that he was in concentration camp for almost 5 years.

A German guard had destroyed his eye and left a scar from one side of his head to the other. When my father died in 1997, they sewed his eye shut and puttied in the scar. The broken eye and scar were not sufficient evidence of incarceration.

Because he had no proof, he got no reparations. He spent a couple years working through various Polish legal aid groups trying to get reparations. He finally decided that the money he was spending to get the reparations wouldn't get him anything and he stopped pursuing reparations.

My mother used to say that the Germans killed her mother and her sister and her sister's baby, and put my mother in a slave labor camp for 3 years and then gave her 30 dollars a month for compensation. It wasn't enough. Nothing was enough.

Sometimes my mother would laugh about this.

By the way, just this past summer, 20 some years after my dad last applied for reparations from the Germans, the US Holocaust Museum sent me jpegs of 15 documents. A number of them prove that my dad was eligible for reparations.

I wonder why the German government couldn’t find them.


The photo above of my mother, my sister, and me was taken by my father two years after we arrived as displaced persons in the US.

Here's a link to a wikipedia article on World War II war reparations.  Click here.


Radha said...

Thank you John - my mother was taken into slave labor after the Warsaw Uprising when everyone was driven out of the city. She lived in a barn and worked at a munitions factory. Working with sulfur made her ill, vomit, lose her cycle, rot her teeth. It took 5 years of waiting late in her life for the reparation check to come from Germany. She would say that they were hoping she'd die so they won't have to send the money. She was in slave labor for 9 months and received a little over $1000. That's maybe 25 per hour. Not only was she traumatized but here I am at 66 being the after shock of her ordeal. I can see that writing poetry helps you deal - It's hard for me to talk about it to those who have no understanding or experience of that period of time.

John Guzlowski said...

Radha, you are right about people not understanding. So many want to talk about the philosophical aspects or the moral aspects of reparations.

For me it's all personal.

John Guzlowski said...

By the way, my father too lost all his teeth in the camps