web analytics
August 30, 2015 / 15 Elul, 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
Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi (3R) speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (3L) during their meeting at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy .
Netanyahu: No Objection to ‘Civilian” Nuclear Program in Iran
Latest News Stories
Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi (3R) speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (3L) during their meeting at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy .

PM Netanyahu told Italian PM Renzi during weekend talks in Florence Israel does not object to a “civilian” nuclear program in Iran.

The car headed towards a group of four soldiers in Hebron, striking one.

Prince Albert II of Monaco

The ruler of the Principality of Monaco, Prince Albert II, on Thursday issued a formal apology for his country’s role in deporting Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II.

Obama and Jewish Organization Leaders

Speaking to Jewish leaders and the American Jewish community on Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama said he’s had arguments with the Israeli leadership because he considers them his friends.

She denies that her criticism of Republicans wanting to put immigrants in “boxcars” was a reference to the Holocaust.

Iranian President Rouhani said Saturday the parliament should not vote on the nuclear deal so that it will not become a legal obligation.

The airport workers; committees new excuse to shut down the airport is to hold a solidarity strike with the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

The daily also accuses the US of being the “biggest settlement country” that “enslaves millions of Hispanics.”

Swiss Ambassador Portrays U.S. and Iran as doves of peace defecating on Netanyahu.

He will arrive Sunday and will be “updated on strategic issues,” meaning Iran.

The boundary, enabling Jewish students to carry on Shabbat, will be made of plastic “lechies” on utility poles.

The café opened in 1939 and was closed n 1949.

A growing number of Arabs in Gaza are calling on people to burn down Hamas institutions.

An Oxford University professor’s new book uncovers what most Israelis know – that the Americans are not “Wild West” cowboys.

A report by the entity responsible for ensuring the peaceful development of nuclear energy worldwide and the one upon which the world depends for monitoring Iran’s nuclear activity revealed that over the past few months Iran has been working on and adding to a building at its Parchin site. Parchin is an Iranian military complex located southeast of Tehran. It […]

Israeli artists build an ice wall at the Davidson Center, near the Kotel in Jerusalem. The wall was based on a piece by American artist Allan Kaprow who built something similar in Israel, in 1980, perpendicular to the Temple Mount. Photos by Yonatan Sindel / Flash90.

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: