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Judge paves the way for payments for Nazi crimes

NEW YORK (CNN) -- At a hearing Thursday, a federal judge dismissed lawsuits that had been blocking payouts from a $4.6 billion fund set up to compensate more than a million victims of the Nazis.

"I hereby grant the motion to dismiss the consolidated complaint," U.S. District Judge Shirley Wohl Kram said at the hearing, which took just over an hour.

Several of the plaintiffs -- many of them former Nazi slave laborers -- were in the courtroom to hear the news.

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The decision paves the way for payouts to begin from a 10 billion deutsche-mark foundation. Half the money came from German industry, the rest from the German government.

There are three classes of beneficiaries: slave laborers, people with unpaid claims from German insurance companies and people whose assets were looted by the Nazis.

"We have the names, we're set to go," said Burt Newborn, a plaintiffs' attorney who filed the suit four years ago.

Newborn predicted that the foundation overseeing the disbursement of funds would meet next month and authorize a distribution plan.

The money is to be distributed through private organizations, such as victims' rights groups.

Under the deal, slave laborers would be entitled to 15,000 deutsche marks (about $6,750). Payoffs of claims for insurance and property losses would vary, depending on how much the claimant could prove was lost.

"It's obviously a big victory for the plaintiffs, who've been waiting," said Morris Ratner, a plaintiffs' attorney. "Today, we've gotten legal closure, and now it's just a matter of weeks before money goes to the victims."

CNN's Shannon Troetel contributed to this report.



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