As many as 50,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel and many others elsewhere could benefit from new guidelines being formulated by the Polish government to ease pension payments for recipients living outside Poland, The Times of Israel reported on Wednesday.
“What is new in these provisions is that Polish authorities, in particular the social security authority, will be able to transfer veteran benefits to claimants residing anywhere in the world at the cost of the Polish authorities,” said Sebastian Rejak, the Polish foreign minister’s special envoy for relations with the Jewish Diaspora.
“In short: an eligible claimant residing in Israel, or someone who suffered during World WarII under German and/or Soviet occupation, will be able to receive his or her monthly benefits directly to his or her bank account in their country of residence. Up until now, you had to have a bank account with a Polish bank or authorize someone living in Poland to do that in your stead. Now the situation will be different,” Rejak told the Times in an exclusive interview.
However, the new guidelines, though already approved by the Polish parliament and President Bronislaw Komorowski, will not go into effect until October for EU residents, and for everyone else in April 2015, which means that many of those eligible will not live to see it.
The government in Warsaw recently changed its laws to allow the Polish Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression to transfer a “monthly pecuniary allowance” of about €100 (NIS 470 or $135) to eligible claimants who reside outside of Poland.
“The importance of this is that, for the first time, the government of Poland is reaching out to this particular group of people,” said Bobby Brown, the outgoing director of Project HEART (Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce), a joint initiative of the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency, which recently closed its doors due to lack of funds.
Brown, who worked with the Israeli and Polish governments on the matter, credited Pensioner Affairs Minister Uri Orbach with making a significant contribution to bringing about the change.
Every Polish citizen who suffered during the Nazi occupation — by being in a death, concentration, labor or transit camp, or in hiding — or the subsequent Soviet occupation, until 1956, is potentially eligible to receive the monthly pension, as well as their spouses.