The International Organization for Migration, or IOM, says it has resolved more than 75 percent of the hundreds of thousands of claims it has received from victims of Nazi forced labor.
Of the nearly 330,000 claims it has received, IOM says it has approved payment for 63,000 victims of Nazi slave or forced labor. The IOM says it rejected 187,000 claims because they did not meet the necessary criteria, as specified under the German Foundation Act.
IOM Spokeswoman Marie-Agnes Heine says it is urgent that payment be made to the victims, as soon as possible. She says they are all very old. Most of those living in Eastern European countries are poor and need money to pay for basic household needs, as well as for medical expenses.
"The German Foundation Act was meant mainly to compensate Eastern European forced laborers, because they had never had the chance to receive any compensation or any recognition for what they had to go through under the Nazi regime, the deportation and the forced labor," she said. "And therefore, it's always assumed, and it was so by law under the Nazis, that they were treated in a particular harsh ways. They were treated very badly - Eastern Europeans."
Ms. Heine says Western Europeans, in general, were not treated as harshly by the Nazis.
The IOM spokeswoman says she has met and spoken to numerous victims in many countries. And, she says, she has seen many patterns of persecution and suffering.
"What is common to all those people is that they really are very grateful that this topic has been taken up after so many years, and that they can talk about it," she said. "The money is not the real important thing to them. What is important to them is that, finally, it is recognized that they went through the suffering, and that a lot of injustice was done to them, and that at least there was an effort or a gesture to make up for this."
The German government and German industry have each contributed 50 percent of the $300 million fund, administered by the so-called German Foundation. The IOM has been chosen to process the claims and make payments to the victims.
Individual payments range from about $1,150 dollars to nearly $8,900. Most of the claims have been submitted by victims from Poland, the Czech Republic, Israel, Germany and the United States.
The IOM says it aims to complete all payments by the end of 2004.