World War II victims to be compensated - finally?

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Foreign minister Jan Kavan told journalists earlier this week that the government would like to make advance payments on compensation due to Czechs aged over 80 who were forced to work as slave laborers in Nazi Germany in WWII. Mr Kavan's announcement received the instant backing of all parliamentary political parties.

Foreign minister Jan Kavan told journalists earlier this week that the government would like to make advance payments on compensation due to Czechs aged over 80 who were forced to work as slave laborers in Nazi Germany in WWII. Mr Kavan's announcement received the instant backing of all parliamentary political parties. Then, on Thursday American judge Shirley Kramer halted legal proceedings against German and Austrian companies that used slave labor during the war, which was apparently the last obstacle in the way of compensation. Olga Szantova asked the Czech Republic's chief negotiator on World War II compensation, Jiri Sitler, how that changed the situation of Czech war victims.

Jiri Sitler: It changes the situation in a very important way. Judge Kram made this decision after discussions with Czech and Polish representatives and with representatives from other Central and Eastern European countries and with a group of attorneys, so the hearing and the decision was not a surprise for us. It was the result of our negotiations with the court and now I think it is the Bundestag which has to act and make the payments possible.

Radio Prague: How many Czech victims are we talking about at this point?

JS: There are 80 000 registered claimants today and we expect an addition of roughly ten or fifteen thousand people who would raise their claims, but out of that some ten or twelve thousand claims are against the Austrian fund, not the German.

Radio Prague: How long will they still have to wait?

JS: It's up to the Bundestag. In our opinion all conditions were fulfilled. There is no reason to wait anymore and Bundestag should establish the legal peace immediately. We appealed to the Bundestag to do it immediately, rapidly, now.

RP: Before Judge Kram halted legal proceedings, the cabinet was considering advance payments for compensation due to the victims. If it takes a long time, will the cabinet come back to this consideration?

JS: Yes. This is the opinion of the Czech government and if Bundestag doesn't act, then the Czech government would come back to this proposal.

RP: This has been discussed a number of times in the past. Is there a time limit this time for how long the Czech side will wait?

JS: It's quite clear. The Bundestag has technically the possibility to decide until the Summer break in the parliamentary session. If Bundestag doesn't make a decision before the Summer break, then we can't wait any more and we'll start with our advance payments.

RP: This, of course, would be at a time when the Czech Parliament has its Summer holiday."

JS: No, it's not dependant on the Czech Parliament in this case, because it would be paid out of money on which the Czech government can decide.

RP: So it would not have to be passed and approved by Parliament?

JS: Probably not.

Author: Olga Szantová
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