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May 27, 2016 / 19 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust Survivors’

White House Names First Envoy for Holocaust Survivor Services

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

The White House on Friday announced the appointment of Aviva Sufian as the first Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Special Envoy for U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services.

Vice President Joe Biden had announced the formation of the new position in December 2013. Sufian “will focus on those [Holocaust] survivors currently living in poverty, as well as those who may not be receiving services for which they are currently eligible,” according to the White House.

“She will coordinate with colleagues at HHS and across the Federal government to advance programs that help Holocaust survivors, including national service programs such as AmeriCorps VISTA,” the White House said. “She will also collaborate with nonprofit organizations and the private sector to raise awareness about the needs of this vulnerable population and explore public-private partnerships that could provide additional support.”

According to the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), one-quarter of Holocaust survivors in the U.S. are living at or near the federal poverty line.

“We are thrilled to be working with Ms. Sufian as we launch this new effort to provide Holocaust survivors the support they need to live in dignity,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the JFNA Board of Trustees.

Sufian is currently director of regional operations for the HHS Administration for Community Living, and previously served as senior advisor at the Social Security Administration.

JNS News Service

Germany to Pay Amsterdam Jews for ‘Voluntary’ Ghetto Labor

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

More than 1,000 people have applied for new compensation of a one-time payment of $2,700 from Germany for labor performed in Amsterdam’s Jewish ghetto during the Holocaust.

The compensation is offered to people who lived in three districts of the Dutch capital that served as ghettos for the city’s Jewish community during the German occupation and performed voluntary labor there, the ANP Dutch news agency reported.

The distribution of money for the labor was announced this week by the Dutch Union for Holocaust Survivors, which is known in the Netherlands by its Dutch-language acronym, VBV.

Some 1,200 applicants have submitted requests for payment as compensation for labor performed in the so-called Jodenbuurt in central Amsterdam, the Rivierenbuurt area in the capital’s south and Transvaalbuurt, east of the center, according to VBV.

“Dutch Jews were driven out of their professions and forced into ghettos before their deportation to concentration camps,” VBV Chairwoman Flory Neter told ANP. “In the ghettos of Amsterdam they often did random chores such as sewing bags to feed their families. It wasn’t forced labor but they were coerced to live in the ghettos so it wasn’t voluntary either.”

VBV has negotiated for years with the German government to obtain the compensation and lost a lawsuit against Germany, but was able to obtain the payments in further talks.

Among those eligible for payments are Holocaust survivors who worked in the ghettos as children, Neter also said.

JTA

Senate Considers Plight of Impoverished Holocaust Survivors

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

The U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on the plight of Holocaust survivors in the United States.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee said at the Wednesday hearing that survivors are better off aging at home.

“The emphasis on caring for aging survivors must be on creating a safe space surrounded by a trusting caretaker, familiar environment, and a basic sense of control over daily life,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the committee chair.

“For many of these seniors, this means staying in their homes to receive medical care in their twilight years, a model of care not supported by the traditional Medicaid model, for instance,” Nelson said, referring to the federal medical funding program for the impoverished.

According to the Senate committee, one fourth of the roughly 140,000 survivors in America live at or below the poverty line, the Washington Jewish Week reported.

Many face significant health and mental illnesses beyond normal aging due to nutritional deprivation and the lack of medical care during World War II.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the committee’s top Republican, said institutional living presents added challenges for survivors.

“The emotional triggers that can be set off by institutional care can be devastating for them,” she said. “Things that other residents would likely ignore can take aging Holocaust survivors psychologically and emotionally back to their traumatic youth or childhood. Confinement is an institutional setting with certain rules, schedules and uniformed staff can literally bring back nightmares. Everyday experiences — showers, doctors, hunger, a lack of privacy — can trigger flashbacks and nightmares.”

Vice President Joe Biden last month laid out a program to assist impoverished Holocaust survivors, including appointing a Health Department envoy to the community and creating additional capacity for volunteers to help the survivors.

Jack Rubin, a constituent of Nelson’s and a survivor of several Nazi concentration and death camps, said many Holocaust survivors are living below the poverty line and can’t afford two hearing aids let alone someone to come into their house daily to help out. He suggested that the German government should contribute.

“U.S. taxpayers are already burdened enough,” he said, adding, “We are not schnorrers. We are not beggars. What we are asking for is what we deserve.”

Besides Rubin and Anat Bar-Cohen, a daughter of survivors, several organizational leaders testified for the need for increased funding, including the Jewish Federations of North America and Selfhelp, a community services organization that helps survivors living in New York.

“Living in poverty, plagued by immeasurable loss, they are at risk of falling into isolation and despair,” Lee Sherman, the president of the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies, said in his testimony.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany provided written testimony.

JTA

Lithuanian Jews to Get Compensation for Holocaust, Soviet Occupation

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Government officials in Lithuania said they would offer symbolic reparations to nearly 1,800 Jewish Holocaust survivors.

The officials told the Baltic News Agency on Wednesday that each survivor will receive a payment of $622 this year. The compensation was also for “suffering during the Soviet occupation,” according to the announcement.

Lithuanian governments have faced criticism by international bodies, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, for drawing parallels between Nazism and communism.

In 2011, the Lithuanian Parliament voted to offer Holocaust survivors and the Jewish community compensation for assets seized during the Holocaust. The government set up a $50 million fund to support the “religious, cultural and social” needs of Lithuania’s Jewish community.

Lithuania had a Jewish population of 250,000 in 1939, but 95 percent of its Jews were murdered during the Holocaust by Nazi soldiers and Lithuanian collaborators. Today Lithuania has some 5,000 Jews, according to the European Jewish Congress.

JTA

Holocaust Hideout in Warsaw Destroyed by Polish Couple

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

A Polish couple pleaded guilty to the desecration of a historic site for destroying a Holocaust-era Jewish hideout in the Warsaw apartment the couple was renting. The hideout was made into an official historic monument in 1999.

A Holocaust hideout built by a Warsaw ghetto inmate was destroyed by a polish couple who pleaded guilty to the desecration of historical property.

Dariusz P. and Elzbieta P. were indicted after their actions were discovered in 2012. They had removed the wardrobe hideout to make space for a kitchen. The original hiding place was built by Warsaw ghetto inmate Leon Jolson.

He and his wife, who survived the Holocaust, hid their family there from 1942 until September 1944, but his mother died while in hiding, the Associated Press reported.

JNS News Service

Swiss Banks’ Holocaust Fund Has Paid Out $1.24 Billion

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Holocaust survivors and victims’ heirs have received $1.24 billion from a Swiss fund set up in 1998 following a scandal over dormant accounts of Jews killed in World War II, according to the Swiss  Jewish weekly Tachles.

It wrote that the figure appeared in a report by New York judge Edward Korman, who oversees the management of the fund.

Korman’s report summed up operations since a landmark 1998 deal between the World Jewish Congress and Swiss banks. Under the accord, the banks paid a $1.25 billion settlement, which was transformed into U.S. government bonds.

Payouts were then overseen by Korman and the Swiss-based Claims Resolution Tribunal, which wrapped up its operations in 2012.

All told, 457,000 Holocaust survivors and heirs have therefore received money from the fund.

Among them were 199,000 people who were pressed into forced labor by Nazi Germany, and who received a share of $288 million.

The banks were accused of keeping money owned by Jews who had hidden funds in secret accounts in neutral Switzerland but then perished in the Holocaust, and of stonewalling heirs who tried to track down the money.

Within the fund, a total of $800 million was destined for account holders and their heirs.

JTA

Germany Pledges $800 Million for Holocaust Survivors Home Care

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

The German government has agreed to significantly expand its funding of home care for infirm Holocaust survivors and relax eligibility criteria for restitution programs to include Jews who spent time in so-called open ghettos.

The agreement, reached after negotiations in Israel with the Claims Conference, will result in approximately $800 million in new funding for home care for Holocaust survivors from 2014 to 2017. This is in addition to $182 million for 2014 that already has been committed.

In 2015, the amount will rise by 45 percent, to approximately $266 million, and then to $273 million in 2016 and $280 million in 2017. Because the sums are set in euro, the actual amounts may change depending on currency fluctuations.

The $84 million increase in funding between 2014 and 2015 will represent the largest year-over-year increase since the program began with approximately $36.6 million in 2004, though a bigger percentage increase took place in 2010, when funding doubled from $68 million $136 million.

“With this new agreement, the Claims Conference will be able to both increase the number of beneficiaries, thus eliminating waiting lists of survivors for home care, as well as increase the number of hours per person to a minimum level of dignity,” Claims Conference board chairman Julius Berman wrote in a letter to the board.

Some 56,000 survivors are now receiving home care through the Claims Conference.

The announcement of new funding comes amid controversy for the Claims Conference over revelations related to bungled investigations in 2001 that failed to detect a broad fraud at the Holocaust restitution organization. A document obtained last week by JTA showed that top Claims Conference officials were involved in the botched probes, including then-executive vice president Gideon Taylor and Berman, who in 2001 served as outside counsel to the Claims Conference.

Claims Conference employee Semen Domnitser, a director of two restitution funds who was at the center of the 2001 inquiries, was found guilty earlier this month in federal court of masterminding the scheme, which ran up more than $57 million in fraudulent claims from 1993 until 2009. The cost of the fraud was borne entirely by Germany.

In his letter to the Claims Conference’s board announcing the result of the latest negotiations, former U.S. ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, who leads negotiations with Germany for the Claims Conference, hailed the work of executive vice president Greg Schneider, who along with a senior Claims Conference staffer discovered and stopped the fraud scheme in 2009.

“The lives of tens of thousands of Holocaust victims will be made easier in their old age due to Greg’s skill and vision,” Eizenstat wrote in his message to the board.

“This unprecedented amount of funding means that we can give Nazi victims around the world the aid that they desperately need as they grow more frail,” he said. “That the agreement encompasses funding through 2017 underscores the German government’s ongoing commitment to Holocaust survivors. It is all the more impressive because it comes at a time of budget austerity in Germany.”

In last week’s negotiations, which took place in Israel, Germany also agreed to relax eligibility criteria for the Central and Eastern European Fund and Article 2 Fund, through which the German government gives pension payments of approximately $411 per month to needy Nazi victims who spent significant time in a concentration camp, in a Jewish ghetto in hiding or living under a false identity to avoid the Nazis.

Until now, only those who were interned in closed-off ghettos were eligible for pensions. As of Jan. 1, 2014, pensions will be available also to those forced to live in any of 300 specific open ghettos, such as those in Czernowitz, Romania, where Jews lived under curfew, lost their jobs and were subject to persecution.

The session that just concluded was the first time since restitution negotiations with Germany began in Luxembourg in 1951 that talks were held in Israel. For decades, the negotiations were held only in the German capital. In recent years, sessions also were held in New York and Washington.

Before they began negotiating last week, German representatives met with survivors in Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, visiting private homes where survivors are receiving home care, a senior day center and a soup kitchen. They also took a guided tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem. The negotiations were held in a classroom at Yad Vashem.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/germany-pledges-800-million-for-holocaust-survivors-home-care/2013/05/28/

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