The good news is that Moroccan and Tunisian victims of Nazi persecution are now eligible for compensation payments from the German government under the terms of the Claims Conference. The bad news, according to reporter Veronique Chemla, is that the application process is ‘opaque’ and a private lawyer creams off 20 percent in fees.
Update: The lawyer in question, Maitre Henri Simon of Quebec, stepped into the breach to offer his services because of the ‘inaction’ of Jewish bodies in France, he told Veronique Chemla. He charges 500 Euros per application to cover his expenses.
Applicants must have been born before 1943 and have suffered under the Vichy regime in Morocco between 1940 and 1943. Tunisian Jews, including those who would have been young children, living anywhere in the country except the Beja region, are also eligible for compensation. There is no submission deadline.
Update to the Update: the major French-Jewish organisation FSJU has admitted that the involvement of commercial lawyers raises an obvious ethical question. It says it offers a free service via Passerelles.
Applicants replying to an ad in the Jewish press must go to a Paris synagogue to fill in the application form (the form inexplicably only mentions Moroccan Jews, omitting Tunisian Jews) and sign an undated cheque in the name of a lawyer in Canada. The form says the cheque will be torn up in the event that the applicant does not receive compensation.
Veronique Chemla points out that these forms are downloadable from the internet and that certain French Jewish organisations, such as the FSJU, whose president and vice-president are both Jews of Tunisian origin, or the Casip-Cojasor Foundation already undertake to process compensation claims on behalf of Jewish applicants, sometimes on behalf of Swiss-Jewish applicants. Why are Swiss applicants more deserving than those in France, and why do French Jewish survivors have to pay a Canadian lawyer’s fees in order to get compensation, she asks?”
If you are not sure if you are eligible for compensation The HEART multilingual website has a useful listing of countries affected by Nazi rule and by the Holocaust. (With thanks Michelle Malca)