The German word Wiedergutmachung after World War II refers to the reparations that the German government agreed to pay in 1953 to the direct survivors of the Holocaust, and to those who were made to work as forced labour or who otherwise became victims of the Nazis. The sum would amount, through the years, to over 100 billion Deutsche Mark. Historian Tony Judt writes about Wiedergutmachung:
The noun Wiedergutmachung is the general term for "restitution" or "reparation". The noun is made up of wieder ("again"), gut ("good" or "well"), and machung, a verbal noun of machen ("to make"). The verb wiedergutmachen means literally "to make good again" or to compensate. Wiedergutmachungsgeld means "Wiedergutmachung money".
The German federal office currently in charge of this issue is the Bundesamt für zentrale Dienste und offene Vermögensfragen (BADV) (Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues). It applies the "Federal Compensation Laws") and took these responsibilities over from the Verwaltungsamt für innere Restitutionen which, in its charter, states:
Only people who were directly victimised are eligible for Wiedergutmachung, and not, for example, offspring born after the war or grandchildren. Statistics concerning Wiedergutmachung payments were released by the BEG through the mid-1980s, but have not since been publicly released. As of the mid-1980s, over four million claims had been filed and paid. Approximately 40% of the claims were from Israel, where many Holocaust survivors live, 20% were from Germany, and 40% were from other countries.
On 3 December 1998, Germany was a signer of the "Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art". Adherence to these principles is strictly voluntary and not a legal requirement. The Washington Principles cover only items in the possession of public institutions, and not items in the possession of private individuals. Germany has no law in effect which actively requires institutions to have their possessions searched for Nazi-looted goods, unlike the 1998 restitution law in Austria.
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