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Son of French soldier killed in WWII files compensation claim in Germany

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Son of French soldier killed in WWII files compensation claim in Germany
An exhibition is Alsace remembering the 'Malgre Nous'. Photo: AFP
08:03 CEST+02:00
The son of a French soldier who was killed during World War II after being forced to fight for the Nazis has filed a complaint against Germany, demanding the same compensation as orphans of German soldiers.

The father of Gerard Michel was one of 130,000 French soldiers from the Alsace region of eastern France conscripted into German forces in World War II. 

The group are known as the "Malgre Nous" (Against our Will).

"Germany refuses to compensate us in the same way as the German orphans, telling us we're not German," Michel told AFP.

"But they dragged away our dads, labelling them as German - whether they liked it or not," he said, noting that he is asking for "exactly the same compensation as German war orphans and widows - not a cent more, not a cent less." 

Michel filed the complaint over the forced conscription of both his father and uncle in 1944 and 1943 at the public prosecutor's office in Strasbourg, alleging a crime against humanity, he told AFP, confirming a report by regional daily L'Alsace.

The Malgre Nous soldiers received a one-off payment after France and Germany reached an agreement in 1981. But they did not receive monthly German benefits, as they were considered French veterans.

"My father sacrificed himself... leaving behind my pregnant mother. He was buried in a mass grave in Poland, like so many others, and Germany has not even apologised," Michel said.

He said that French orphans of fathers killed fighting for Germany received €920 under the 1981 accord. But he complained that a person who had volunteered for the SS could collect €400 a month or €192,000 over a 40-year period. 

"That's 200 times more," Michel said.

In June, the French Armed Forces ministry confirmed that five ex-soldiers were among the 54 people in France who receive German World War II pensions. 

In February, the confirmation that a handful of Nazi collaborators in Belgium still receive German benefits sparked outrage.

These monthly benefits are awarded to Belgian citizens who worked with the German Wehrmacht, as well as those forcibly conscripted from the annexed parts of eastern Belgium. 

 
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