The German government spends more than 20 million euros per year on helping ethnic Germans living in Eastern Europe, SPIEGEL has learned. The payments are "an expression of special historical responsibility" for their suffering after World War II, Berlin says.
The German government spends more than €20 million ($27 million) per year on programs to support German minorities living in Eastern Europe.
The payments are an "expression of special historical responsibility," says the German Interior Ministry, and are intended to compensate people for the injustice they suffered in their countries after World War II.
The figures were made available by the ministry in response to a request from Spiegel. They don't include payments made by the Foreign Ministry, the Culture Ministry or Germany's 16 regional state governments.
The government contributes to financing care for the elderly, language tuition and cultural events for some one million people. It also subsidizes the German-Russian children's magazine Schrumdirum, paying €244,000 per year for subscriptions.
The per capita expenditure varies widely. Germans in Romania get almost €48 per year on average, compared with just €2 for Germans in Hungary.
The German government doesn't know how big its target group really is, though. The payments are based on local censuses in which people were asked if they saw themselves as ethnic Germans. For example, in 2011, only 109,000 Poles said they did, while minority associations put the figure of German Poles at up to 350,000.
In Russia, the figure could be 600,000 people rather than the 400,000 cited by the German Interior Ministry. In Hungary, successive censuses have increased the estimate for ethnic Germans from 30,000 to 86,000 between 1990 and 2011.
For the whole of Eastern Europe, the figure could be between 1 million and 1.5 million people.
This kind of support can be linked back to the Federal Expellee Law of 1953, which defines the rights of ethnic Germans or German citizens who were either expelled or fled as refugees from Central and Eastern Europe after the war. In June, the German parliament called on the government to "continue the aid policy for the German minorities."