Holocaust reparations from France legitimate but don’t erase suffering

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By Mitzpeh Staff

@Mitzpeh

On Sept. 15, The Washington Post reported that the U.S. State Department had approved that France pay $11 million in reparations  to Holocaust survivors. The payments are in regards to Holocaust survivors who traveled from France to concentration camps through the state-owned French railway, or SNCF. The payment process included an application that survivors, who have mostly settled in the America, Canada, and Israel, needed to fill out by May 31. There will be another round of applications with a deadline of  January 2017, according to Jewish Virtual Library.

This payment raises several issues when it comes to repaying Holocaust survivors. While the gesture of paying reparations is surely heartfelt and may help to ease the pain a little bit, it is impossible for France to repay for the lives of those who perished thanks to the aid of the SNCF. According to The Washington Post, of the 76,000 prisoners that the railway transported to concentration camps, only 2,000 survived.

It’s so difficult to find a proper way for countries to give back to those they persecuted. For over 65 years, Germany has been trying to repay for the damages it caused during the Holocaust. It doesn’t make up for the horror of the Holocaust, not even close, but at least it shows a continued effort by both Germany and France to try and repair their relationships with the Jewish community.

Yet, the real question becomes this: how eager should survivors be to accept these reparations? While the countries may feel the guilt and the need to to reach out, no one should force survivors to accept the money as an act of forgiveness.

A survivor has the right to feel upset or offended that a reparation doesn’t make up for everything he or she endured. If he or she does not want to accept the money, that is a personal choice that this newspaper understands is valid.That being said, it is also completely justifiable to want the reparations — everybody affected should decide for themselves what they want to do.

Because it has been 71 years since the Holocaust, survivors found a way to move on without the help of reparations. And unfortunately, many people who did survive the Holocaust are now dead. In this case, France is paying the survivors’ spouses or heirs, according to The Washington Post.

Paying for reparations is a completely separate entity from everything that occurred and shouldn’t just represent a country attempting to make up for the sins of its past. Instead, this is about the future. This is about creating a strong relationship between Jewish communities and their respective countries.
In this world, where hate is strong and anti-semitism is still present, it is important for the leaders in both the Jewish world and the rest of the world to work together. This starts with trust, and countries admitting their wrongdoings is the first step to gaining the trust of their Jewish community, regardless of whether or not that community is getting paid.

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