SHOAH RECORDS ARE REVEALED
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