After his death, we learned that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was pursuing reparations for African Americans — an initiative that he said “paralleled and intertwined with the Poor People’s Campaign”, The Gazette reported.
In 1964, King was considering a massive universal anti-poverty program. He spoke of enslavement and the moral right to be compensated for labor exploitation. King argued, “Yet a price can be placed on unpaid wages” and “ancient common law” provides “a remedy for the appropriation of the labor of one human being by another.” He concluded that “payment” should come through “a massive program by the government of special, compensatory measures” for African Americans.
Advocates for American slavery reparations point to the reparations organized by Germany for victims of the Holocaust.
In 1945, three months after the end of World War II, Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann demanded reparations from the U.S., USSR, U.K., and France due to the Jewish people from Germany for involvement in the Holocaust. The demands were made on behalf of the Jewish Agency. He appealed to the Allied Powers to include this claim in their negotiations for reparations with Germany, in view of the “mass murder, the human suffering, the annihilation of spiritual, intellectual, and creative forces, which are without parallel in the history of mankind,” Jewish Virtual Library reported.
It wasn’t until 1951 that any real movement was made when Israel’s Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett claimed global compensation from the four Allied governments for the State of Israel of $1.5 billion from the German Federal Republic (West Germany).
Sharett based his claim on the financial cost to Israel for the rehabilitation of the Jews who escaped or survived the Nazi regime. By taking in 500,000 Nazi victims, Israel said it needed $3,000 per capita.
After six months of negotiations, a final agreement was made between Israel and West Germany in Luxembourg.
West Germany undertook to pay a total of $845 million: $100 million earmarked for allocation by the Claims Conference and the remainder to Israel. Direct compensation would be paid in annual installments over 14 years through 1966. The money to Israel was split – 30 percent was to pay for Israel’s crude oil purchases in the U.K. and with the balance of 70 percent Israel was to buy ferrous and nonferrous metals, steel, chemical, industrial, and agricultural products from Germany, Jewish Virtual Library reported.
In 1988, the German government allocated another $125 million for reparations for living Holocaust survivors to receive monthly payments of $290 for the rest of their lives.
There were class-action lawsuits for Germany to compensate Jews and non-Jews specifically for slave and forced labor they performed for German industry during the war. In 1999, Germany and various German companies such as Deutsche Bank AG, Siemens, BMW, Volkswagen, and Opel created the “Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future” foundation with assets of about $5 billion.
Slave and forced laborers still alive at the time of the settlement could apply to receive a lump sum payment of between $2,500 and $7,500 from the foundation, Jewish Virtual Library reported. More than 140,000 Jewish survivors from at least 25 countries received payments. Final payments from the Foundation were to be made by September 2006.
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