New regulations introduced in Poland in April 2015 have opened the door to thousands of Holocaust survivors and victims of Soviet persecution worldwide to a monthly pension. Whilst these pensions existed in Poland for some time, previously, recipients were required to have a Polish bank account. Under the new law, the payments can be deposited into bank accounts outside of Poland. The amount of the pension is 400 zloty, or approximately $130. These payments are not transferable and only the victim is able to apply and, if approved, receive payment. There is no income testing.
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Applications are processed by the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression in Poland and, once approved, are administered by the Polish Social Security Office (ZUS). The payments are offered to eligible people of Polish descent who were detained by the Nazis in ghettos, prisons, concentration camps and extermination camps; forcibly deported to the Soviet Union; served in the Polish military, the Polish units of the Allied militaries, or in the Polish underground during World War II; or otherwise considered a veteran or a victim of oppression.
The process of applying for the pension can be frustrating and long. Most eligible people are very elderly and frail, and rely on their families or community organisations to assist. They find it difficult to complete the forms and provide evidence of the persecution. The forms need to be completed in the Polish language, and as many documents had been destroyed or never have existed, proving their claim can be difficult and take several months.
All applicants need to be endorsed by a veterans’ organisation and have an address for service in Poland. The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants and the World Federation of Child Holocaust Survivors have both agreed to provide letters of endorsement. The Auschwitz Jewish Center in Krakow offered to use its address for free for those who need it.
Polaron has been assisting Holocaust survivors in Australia to apply for the pension on a voluntary basis since April 2016. Since then, several applications have been approved, however some are still being processed by the Polish government.
If you know of anyone that may be eligible, please contact Polaron on 1300 88 55 61. You can also email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
All enquiries are kept private and confidential, and are handled with utmost sensitivity.
We can also help with translations, research and liaising with the Polish authorities, completely free of charge.