Prague, Czech Republic Payments were sent out Tuesday to thousands of Nazi-era slave laborers, the first made after years of haggling over the German-sponsored fund.
The fund that compensates World War II-era survivors in the Czech Republic sent out its first wave of payments to 10,000 people, while a New York-based group that handled payments specifically to Jewish survivors sent out its first 10,000 to people in 25 countries.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan described the payments by the $4.3 billion German fund, which is supported 50-50 by the German government and industry, as "historic." The payments will be made in installments.
Victims are eligible to receive up to $6,500 each if they were in a concentration camp in programs intended to work prisoners to death, or up to $2,175 if they were forced to work elsewhere for German companies.
Up to 1.5 million surviving slave and forced laborers most in central and eastern Europe are believed eligible for compensation.
The claims and payouts are handled by seven partner organizations: five based around eastern Europe for victims living in those countries; the Jewish Claims Conference, which handles Jewish claims; and the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, responsible for claims from the rest of the world.
German officials said last week that the Jewish Claims Conference and organizations in the Czech Republic and in Poland would be the first to receive payments. The Polish fund said it would make its first payments June 28.
Of the 10,000 Czechs to be paid in the first wave, 2,434 served as slave laborers in Nazi concentration camps, and 7,566 are former forced laborers, Jan Sechter of the Czech-German fund said.
The Czech-German fund has registered some 84,000 applications for compensation, but hundreds more applications arrive every day, Sechter said.