BERLIN (AP) – A German federal court ruled Wednesday that two Jews who were forced by the Nazis to work in ghettos have a right to a pension for their labor, setting the stage for thousands of others to receive payments.

The Federal Social Affairs Court in Kassel ruled that the two qualified for pensions because, although they did not receive financial compensation for their work, they received food and other items – meaning the German government was responsible for them.

The two plaintiffs, whose names were not released by the court, did cleaning and washing in a ghetto in Poland.

The ruling sets a precedent for some 70,000 people forced by the Nazis to work in ghettos, or their descendants, to make claims.

Most would be able to claim payments of euro150 ($213) per month, backdated to July 1, 1997. The payments could add up to more than euro1 billion, according to estimates, which would come out of Germany’s federal pension program.

The Jewish Claims Conference, which administers compensation payments, applauded the court’s decision.

“The verdict of the Federal Social Affairs Court speaks to the spirit of the law, and provides many Holocaust survivors whose claims for pensions have been refused a little justice,” said a spokesman for the conference in Germany, Georg Heuberger.

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