It’s been 80 years since Nazi soldiers laid siege to the city of Leningrad, Russia, during the Holocaust, but memories of the desperation haven’t faded away for Russian Jews like Raisa Khusid, who survived starvation and bombardment.
Food was so scarce, Ms. Khusid recalled in an interview on Tuesday, that one of her uncles fed them unimaginable things.
“He was actually going outside after the rain to collect the worms,” Ms. Khusid said through a Russian translator on Zoom.
But only now is Ms. Khusid, 80, who lives outside Chicago, eligible for pension benefits from the German government as part of an expanding restitution program for Holocaust survivors, according to the main negotiating organization for those benefits.
The group, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, better known as the Claims Conference, announced on Wednesday that it had secured an additional $767 million in benefits for Holocaust survivors. During the past 70 years, the group estimated, the German government has set aside more than $90 billion for Holocaust survivors.
As part of the most recent negotiations, the Claims Conference said, Germany agreed to recognize the extreme suffering of Russian Jews who had endured the more than two-year Nazi siege of Leningrad, which is now St. Petersburg, Russia.
Because Leningrad had not been occupied by the Nazis during the blockade, which lasted from September 1941 to January 1944, previous restitution efforts met with resistance from German officials, said Stuart E. Eizenstat, the group’s longtime top negotiator.
“They said, ‘Look, well, the non-Jews suffered,’” Mr. Eizenstat, a former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, said on Tuesday. “We were able to show them Nazi fliers that were dropped that said that Jews were the cause of the siege. So their level of persecution was greater.”