Germany’s responsibility for its past
The Federal Government has, from the very outset, made the process of providing moral and financial compensation for the crimes/injustice committed by the National Socialist regime a key priority and it continues to attach great importance to this task today. The Federal Republic of Germany makes large lifelong payments that, in accordance with the declared objective of the Federal Government, are intended to benefit those who were persecuted by the Nazi regime. The Federal Government intends to continue to provide support for the survivors of the persecution and horrors of the concentration camps and ghettos and to enable them to live in dignity.
Speaking in the German Bundestag on 27 September 1951, Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer unequivocally accepted Germany’s responsibility to make compensation for the deeds of the past: “The Federal Government and the large majority of the German people are aware of the immeasurable suffering which, under the Nazi regime, was brought upon the Jews in Germany and in the occupied territories. [...] In the name of the German people, unspeakable crimes were committed which call for moral and material compensation [...].” Then Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel emphasised the following during her visit to Jerusalem in April 2007: “Only by fully accepting its enduring responsibility for this most appalling period and for the cruellest crimes in its history can my country, can Germany, shape the future. There is no alternative.”
The harm caused by National Socialist injustice required provisions for compensation to be put in place immediately after the end of the Second World War. Those who had suffered harm as a result of National Socialist violence on grounds of political opposition to National Socialism or on grounds of race, creed or ideology were particularly affected. Provisions governing compensation for the injustice they suffered were therefore introduced for these individuals at an early stage by the occupying powers, the municipalities and, since their formation, the Länder. These initial measures were adapted and further developed after the founding of the Federal Republic and this process continues to this day.