"This is the last chance for claimants who satisfy certain criteria," said Delbert Field, the deputy director of the German Forced Labor Compensation Program and Holocaust Victim Assets Program.
For the assets program, the International Organization for Migration is expecting to receive a total of up to 25,000 claims. Already, 1,000 forms have been returned, approximately 150 of them from Latvia.
About 40 applications have been received so far from Latvia for the property program.
The Property Loss Program, part of the German Forced Labor Compensation Program, was formed primarily to deal with compensations to people who suffered property losses during the Nazi era as a result of persecution due to their race, political coÓvictions, faith or ideology.
Compensation is also available to those who suffered the loss of property from the direct participation of German enterprises, and not necessarily because of Nazi persecution. A total of 200 million deutschemarks ($90.9 million) has been earmarked for the program.
An independent property claims commission in Geneva will consider the claims, but Field avoided mentioning any concrete amount of money a victim could get, since that will be something for the commission to decide.
Field also stressed that people eligible for compensation are those who have met the above mentioned criteria and who have not been able to participate in any previous German government compensation or restitution programs.
Religious communities and organizations that suffered property losses are also entitled to compensation.
The program is not designed to satisfy all claims. If someone thinks their claim is legitimate they have the right to submit it and the commission will consider it.
The special claim forms must be submitted by victims or their heirs by August 11, 2001.
The assets program implements the Settlement Agreement reached between Holocaust survivors and Swiss banks in 1999. Within the program there will be approximately $20-25 million distributed to Holocaust victims belonging to one of the three classes of claimants.
Firstly, people who were persecuted or targeted for persecution because they were, or were believed, to be a Roma, Jehovah's Witness, homosexual, or physically or mentally handicapped, and who performed slave labor for German companies or for the Nazi regime.
Secondly, people who performed labor during the Nazi era for Swiss companies or their affiliates, whether or not they were victims or targets of Nazi persecution.
Thirdly, those who were persecuted or targeted for persecution because they belonged to the types of people listed in the first group and who were denied entry into Switzerland or who were detained, abused or otherwise mistreated as refugees in Switzerland, between 1933 and 1945.
The amount of compensation varies from $500 to $2,500. Heirs of victims in all three classes are only entitled to claim compensation if the victim died on or after February 16, 1999.
The number of possible claimants for both programs cannot yet be mentioned, said Field. He also avoided mentioning a time frame in which victims could expect to receive their compensation.
Part of the work will be checked by electronic matching. The remainder must be checked with the help of local archives, and this will take much more time.
The claim forms are available in several languages in all International Organization for Migration headquarters.