web analytics
April 2, 2015 / 13 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post


Saul Kagan, Claims Conference Founder and Chief, Dies at 91

Saul Kagan founded the Claims Conference, which brought in tens of billions of dollars in payments to survivors of the Holocaust. He also helped found Yad VaShem in Jerusalem.
By:
Claims Conference founder Saul Kagan has died at the age of 91.

Claims Conference founder Saul Kagan has died at the age of 91.

Saul Kagan, the founder and a longtime chief of the Claims Conference, died Saturday at age 91.

Kagan helped found the organization in 1951 to be the main vehicle for negotiating with Germany over restitution for Holocaust survivors.

In a statement announcing his death, the Claims Conference credited Kagan with securing tens of billions of dollars in restitution payments during his 47 years at the helm of the organization.

“Saul always made his work about the mission and never about himself,” the Claims Conference said. “He was the very embodiment of humility, decency, integrity and wisdom.”

Kagan was a native of Vilna, Lithuania, from where he fled in 1940 on a journey that took him to Vladivostok and Japan before reaching Hawaii and eventually New York. His father survived the war in the Soviet Union, but his mother, brother and grandparents were killed by the Nazis.

Kagan found himself back in Europe before the war’s end as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force. After the war, Kagan, who spoke six languages, coordinated property restitution in Germany for the U.S. Army.

According to the Claims Conference, he was involved in the creation of U.S. Government military order No. 59, which allowed Holocaust survivors and victims’ families to file claims for property confiscated by the Nazis.

In 1952, Kagan played a key role in the landmark Luxembourg Agreements, when representatives of Israel, Germany and the newly created Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany sat down to hammer out a reparations agreement for the crimes of Nazi Germany.

The mood at the negotiating table was solemn, recalled Kagan — by then the executive director of the Claims Conference — in a video shown at a July 2012 event in Washington marking the 60th anniversary of the Claims Conference.

“There were no handshakes, there was no banter or anything else,” Kagan said in halting tones. “We somehow had the feeling that we were not alone in this room. Somehow we felt that the spirits of those who couldn’t be there were there with us.”

The document signed that year established payments from West Germany to the Claims Conference and Israel.

“For the first time in the history of the Jewish people, oppressed and plundered for hundreds of years … the oppressor and plunderer has had to hand back some of the spoil and pay collective compensation for part of the material losses,” Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion wrote in a 1952 letter to the Claims Conference’s first president, Nahum Goldmann.

The early years of restitution were quite contentious among survivors and the Jewish community. The Knesset saw violent confrontations over whether and how Israel should accept money from Germany, and Kagan was threatened by survivors and had to hire a bodyguard.

Kagan was instrumental in setting up some of the most significant compensation programs at the Claims Conference.

In 1980, Germany agreed to the establishment of the Hardship Fund, which has issued one-time payments of 2,556 euros (or their equivalent) to 390,000 victims of Nazism. Following the reunification of Germany, Kagan helped negotiate the creation of the Article 2 pension program to pay Nazi victims who had not received compensation from the agreements dating back to the 1950s. He also helped extend the Claims Conference’s purview to include restitution from Austria.

Through the Claims Conference, Kagan helped establish the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Jerusalem and the program to honor righteous gentiles — non-Jews who helped save Jews during the Holocaust.

Kagan stepped down from the helm of the Claims Conference in 1999 and was succeeded by Gideon Taylor.

Kagan’s name was back in the news this year when it emerged that he was among those CC’d on correspondence in 2001 about allegations of fraud at the Claims Conference. Investigations that year by Claims Conference leaders failed to detect a massive fraud scheme was underway that would rack up more than $57 million in fraudulent payments by the time it was discovered and stopped in 2009. The fraud dated back to 1993.

Even after he handed over the reins of the Claims Conference to Taylor, Kagan still did work on behalf of the organization. He also was a board member of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, the World Jewish Restitution Organization and Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

Kagan is survived by his wife, Eleanor; a daughter, Julia; and stepchildren Jonathan and Emily Lobatto.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Saul Kagan, Claims Conference Founder and Chief, Dies at 91”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Soldier tackles terrorist who stabbed him bear the security fence in Samaria, east of Tel Aviv.
Breaking News: Arab Terrorist Stabs Soldier at Security Fence
Latest News Stories
Soldier tackles terrorist who stabbed him bear the security fence in Samaria, east of Tel Aviv.

The soldier is being treated for light to moderate wounds after tackling the terrorist.

Fourth and successful test of David's Sling anti-missile system.

The system will give Israel a unique defense against short, medium and long-range missiles.

Egyptian tanks deployed in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt’s supposed iron-fist strategy to control the Sinai is full of bullet holes.

Desperate crowd awaits relief aid at Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus.

Netanyahu said “radical elements…would certainly attack Israel and… threaten the Palestinian Authority and take control of the Palestinian public.”

Sen. Menendez indicted; claims charges against him tricks by political enemies.

Israeli scientists at Tel Aviv University’s School of Electrical Engineering are in the process of bringing the iconic Star Trek “tricorder” to life.

Israeli archaeologists prove Egyptian culture was rife in Israel “for years” after the Exodus.

Two cops were hurt Wednesday and a female bomber was killed in a shootout outside Istanbul’s police headquarters.

A Gazan who sold a Banksy painted on his bombed-out doorway to a local artist for NIS 700 (about $175) says he was tricked.

Sixty-five years after a group of Arab nations signed a mutual defense treaty whose primary target was the newly-reestablished state of Israel, Arab leaders agreed Sunday to activate it by setting up a joint military force. The move comes amid spreading Islamic extremism and Iranian muscle-flexing in the region. The in-principle decision was made at […]

A table was set up in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square for all the Israelis who have gone missing.

They chatted a bit, Boehner congratulated Netanyahu on his election victory, and then the two went for lunch.

As Iranian general calls for Israel’s destruction, P5+1 talks on concessions to Iran continue.

Belgian insurance companies refuse to insure Jewish kindergartens due to the risk of anti-Semitic attacks.

France has left the US-led nuclear talks with Iran in Lausanne, saying it will return when it is ‘useful.’

More Articles from JTA

More than 20 cars and buildings in a Jewish community in north London were vandalized with swastikas. The Nazi symbol was drawn on approximately 27 cars in the Osbaldeston Road area of Stoke Newington on Sunday night, The Daily Mail reported. An unnamed 32-year-old man was arrested in connection with the vandalism Tuesday. The neighborhood […]

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind called on the Jewish community to attend the funeral of an assassinated New York police officer. “The brave men and women of the NYPD risk their lives every day to protect us. We value them and stand with them,” Hikind, a Democrat who represents Brooklyn, said in a statement […]

“Move Jew” scrawled on a Philadelphia home and slurs written on a synagogue and 10 garages in Chicago.

The Nazis nearly destroyed the 17th synagogue.

Cuba has “the largest pool of untapped baseball talent in the world, and Major League Baseball may tap and leave Cuba dry.

Argentina’s president Christina Fernandez has accepted an official Jewish godson for the first time in the country’s history to help counter legend of death to a seventh son. She described in seven tweets her meeting with her new godson, Yair Tawil, a member of a Chabad-Lubavitch family. He was adopted as a godson under a […]

A fundraising campaign started quietly by two first graders two years ago to help find a cure for a rare genetic disease just passed the $1 million mark.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/saul-kagan-claims-conference-founder-and-chief-dies-at-91/2013/11/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: