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Hungary signs new restitution agreement for Holocaust survivors

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, July 6, 2013 16:45 EDT
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Members of the Hungarian Jewish community march during an Holocaust memorial ceremony in Budapest on April 21, 2013. [AFP]
 
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The Hungarian government announced a deal Saturday with a US-based Holocaust restitution organisation on reparations for Hungarian survivors living abroad, ending a year-long row over transparency and a freeze of payments to survivors.

“The government has concluded an agreement with the Conference of Material Claims Against Germany,” Janos Lazar, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, said in a statement to the Hungarian news agency MTI.

Hungary signed a five-year agreement with the Claims Conference in 2007 for the distribution of $21 million (16 million euros) to Hungarian Holocaust survivors but broke off talks on an extension of the agreement last year.

It stopped payments and asked for some funds to be repaid after accusing the Claims Conference of improper accounting, a charge the organisation fiercely denied.

“Holocaust survivors of Hungarian origin living abroad will be able to receive as soon as possible the compensation to which they are entitled,” Lazar said Saturday.

“In order to now faster disburse restitution monies, the government will transfer $5.6 million within three days,” he said.

Lazar said the money would be transferred to the Jewish Heritage of Hungary Public Endowment (MAZSOK), a Hungary-based committee made up of government officials and Jewish representatives, which liaises with the Claims Conference.

The parties have also agreed to contract an international auditing firm to monitor the transparency of the disbursements, he added.

State pensions for Hungary-based Holocaust survivors were hiked 50 percent by the government earlier this year.

The Holocaust claimed the lives of some 600,000 Hungarian Jews, but the local Jewish community, thought to number up to 100,000 in total, remains one of the biggest in Europe.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

Agence France-Presse
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