SHOAH RECORDS ARE RE­VEALED

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOMMY NOR­TON

THOU­SANDS OF sto­ries of Nazi per­se­cu­tion, writ­ten in re­sponse to a 1960s scheme of­fer­ing com­pen­sa­tion for British vic­tims, have been re­vealed in new files re­leased at the Na­tional Ar­chives.

Around 4,000 people ap­plied for com­pen­sa­tion un­der the scheme af­ter a deal was reached be­tween the British and West Ger­man gov­ern­ments in 1964.

A quar­ter of the ap­pli­cants re­ceived some form of com­pen­sa­tion, with a max­i­mum pay-out set at £4,000.

While many ap­pli­cants sim­ply filled in the stan­dard form pro­vided by the govern­ment, oth­ers wrote long let­ters in sup­port of their ap­pli­ca­tion, of­ten con­tain­ing har­row­ing tes­ti­mony of their wartime ex­pe­ri­ences.

These pre­vi­ously un­seen pa­pers rep­re­sent a sub­stan­tial new re­source for his­to­ri­ans of the pe­riod.

Dr Ge­orge Hay, a records spe­cial­ist at the Na­tional Ar­chives, told the JC: “We now have a com­plete col­lec­tion of wit­ness tes­ti­monies, not just British cases, and not just suc­cess­ful cases, but ev­ery­one who put in an ap­pli­ca­tion. It’s a com­plete repos­i­tory which can be ac­cessed, an­a­lysed and com­pared with other records.”

Yet the thou­sands of sto­ries be­hind the scheme could eas­ily have been lost to his­tory had the For­eign and Com­mon­wealth Of­fice (FCO) not been forced to ad­mit the ex­is­tence of more than 600,000 hid­den files housed in a se­cret fa­cil­ity in Buck­ing­hamshire, dubbed the “Spe­cial Col­lec­tions”.

The ex­is­tence of these files was only re­vealed in 2013 and the col­lec­tion of Nazi per­se­cu­tion com­pen­sa­tion files were later iden­ti­fied as be­ing a pri­or­ity for early pub­lic re­lease. The first set of files were opened in March 2016.

This week the fi­nal batch of more than 1,000 files was re­leased at the ar­chives in Kew, south-west Lon­don, although around a third of the pa­pers con­tain redacted names of in­di­vid­u­als who may still be alive.

The For­eign Of­fice-ad­min­is­tered scheme dis­trib­uted £1m to British vic­tims of Nazi per­se­cu­tion, in­clud­ing the rel­a­tives of con­cen­tra­tion camp vic­tims.

As well as first-hand ac­counts of wartime suf­fer­ing and the ef­fect it had on fam­i­lies, the files show at­tempts by For­eign Of­fice of­fi­cials to cor­rob­o­rate the sto­ries and to quan­tify these ex­pe­ri­ences in terms of fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion.

The re­sult was a “unit sys­tem” whereby im­pris­on­ment in a con­cen­tra­tion camp for one week was the equiv­a­lent of one unit, val­ued at £22.

Dis­abil­ity was cal­cu­lated on a slid­ing scale from 20 to 80 units de­pend­ing on the sever­ity of the in­juries, and 100 units were as­signed to a death.

Only a quar­ter of the 4,000 ap­pli­cants were suc­cess­ful, each re­ceiv­ing an av­er­age of around £1,000, the equiv­a­lent of ap­prox­i­mately £18,000 to­day.

A to­tal of 31 ap­pli­cants re­ceived the max­i­mum £4,000 pay-out. Many of the more poignant sto­ries in the files con- A group of Jewish refugees from Ger­many and Aus­tria are taught to sing in Es­sex in trauma for many sur­vivors, and the For­eign Of­fice re­ceived 4,000 ap­pli­ca­tions for

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