Needy East Germans with outstanding pension claims from the GDR era should have until the end of January to apply for money from a hardship fund. This also applies to late repatriates and Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The federal government intends to “extend the application deadline once until January 31, 2024,” according to a letter from the Ministry of Social Affairs to the Social Committee in the Bundestag. The cabinet is expected to approve this next week.

The traffic light coalition launched the hardship fund at the beginning of the year and budgeted 500 million euros. One-off payments of at least 2,500 euros are possible. The application deadline actually expired on September 30th. But so far only comparatively few people have asserted their claims.

The office of the Hardship Fund Foundation continued to receive many applications, Parliamentary State Secretary Kerstin Griese wrote to the Social Committee. “The previous public relations measures were further intensified in the summer of 2023 and have not yet reached all those potentially entitled.”

Call for a “justice fund”

When a common pension system was set up after German unification, some pension entitlements from the GDR era were not taken into account. These include certain additional pensions, for example for former employees of the Reichsbahn or Post, as well as claims for women who were divorced during the GDR era. The traffic light assumed 50,000 to 70,000 East Germans had possible claims, the Left even assumed 500,000. By mid-September, a good 14,100 applications had been submitted.

The Left Eastern Representative Sören Pellmann welcomed the federal government’s announcement. “The planned extension of the application deadline is necessary, but not enough,” explained the Leipzig MP. “If the criteria for the hardship fund are not relaxed, more time will be of little use.” The prerequisite for the one-off payment is need, i.e. pensions close to basic security. Pellmann called for a “justice fund” and compensation for all affected eastern pensioners.