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July 5, 2015 / 18 Tammuz, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘World Jewish Congress’

Lauder at 70th Bergen-Belsen Liberation Ceremony: ‘Silence Emboldens Tyrants’

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

A ceremony was held today, April 26, in Lohheide, Germany, to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen Nazi death camp which took place on April 15, 1945.

More than fifty thousand people perished in the Bergen-Belsen camp, which was really several connected camps that housed and killed Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and others considered “undesirable” by the Nazi regime. Anne Frank and her sister Margot were among the tens of thousands who died at Bergen-Belsen.

Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, gave an impassioned speech to the gathered crowd.

Lauder spoke not only of the specifics of the horrors visited upon the world and, in particular, the Jewish people, during World War II, but he also made pointed references to the dangers of similar horrors lurking on the horizons at the present time.

Lauder reminds everyone that it was not only the Nazis, and not only the German people and not only the rest of Europe which were complicit in this horror, but everyone who was silent and failed to act.

Lauder also points out that there was a voice that was silent, but not because they chose to look elsewhere, but because they were silenced: the Jews. And he points out that the Jews need not be silent ever again in the face of threats to their existence, because there is a Jewish homeland whose purpose is to ensure the continuance of the Jewish people.

No doubt he is talking about Iran.

Lauder also speaks at length about the resilience and self-reliance of the Jewish people in the aftermath of the Holocaust. How the Jews left the Displaced Persons camps and never looked back.

“They refused to be victims,” Lauder said. “Jews all over the world helped their fellow Jews get back on their feet. They were never used as political pawns.”

Do you have any doubt to whom he is referring?

The following is Lauder’s speech in its entirety. It is worth your while to read the whole thing.

We come here today to remember. We remember the evil of this terrible place. We also remember that world silence led to this evil.

And we gather with an uncomfortable awareness that anti-Semitism has returned to Europe once again.

Seventy years ago, as Nazi Germany was collapsing, and the greatest war in history was coming to an end. The saddest irony was that Jews, the people who should have been happiest about Hitler’s defeat, were not to be heard.

There were no Jewish victory celebrations like those in New York or Trafalgar Square or Moscow. There was no jubilation. The reason is all around you. For Jews, the awful realization of loss suddenly set in. Mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, over one million children – all gone. Half of the world’s Jews murdered.

Right now, we stand on one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world. But there are no gravestones. There are no markers. The victims buried here lost not just their lives; the Nazis took their identities as well.

When British troops entered the gates here at Bergen-Belsen they took pictures and, for the first time, the world finally understood the extent of the Nazi horror.

We saw the bulldozers pushing naked bodies into open pits. The walking skeletons. The unbelievable sadness and loss. It has always struck me that battle-hardened soldiers, who saw some of the worst combat in Europe, became emotional years later when they talked about entering Bergen-Belsen.

Seventy years on, we all know about the crime. We know the perpetrators – but they were not just Germans and Austrians. There was complicity in practically every country in Europe. My own country, the United States – the beacon of liberty – shut its doors to Jews desperately trying to leave.

Belgium Joins Jews in Fighting Anti-Semitism

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Belgium’s government will join Jewish efforts in fighting anti-Semitism, according to the World Jewish Congress (WJC).

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo pledged Monday following a meeting in Brussels to establish a joint commission with WJC and local Jews to “facilitate the exchange of information” on the issue.

The commitment came following a murderous attack by Islamist terrrorist Mehdi Nemmouche last week at the Brussels Jewish Museum, which left four people dead, including a couple from Tel Aviv. Two Jews were beaten and left in serious condition outside a synagogue in a Paris suburb less than 24 hours later.

The Brussels terrorist, who used a Kalashnikov assault rifle to carry out his attack, was tracked down and caught in France after having just returned from a round of fighting in Syria.

The Belgian prime minister told the WJC delegation he would help Jewish efforts to strengthen communal security, combat racism and strengthen Holocaust education. Di Rupo said he supported “closer European cooperation to fight radical movements” and said his nation would not tolerate “hate speech.”

European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor warned recently at a news conference at Tel Aviv University that unless conditions begin to change, “Normative Jewish life in Europe is unsustainable.”

A Fearsome Test For French Jews

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

France has a rich Jewish history and a vibrant Jewish community of approximately 500,000 souls. At the same time, France is a country where anti-Semitism has deep, seemingly immutable roots. Modern Zionism evolved partly as a reaction to the Dreyfus trial at the end of the 19th century, while in the middle of the 20th approximately 90,000 Jews were murdered during the Nazi Holocaust.

In our own time, France has provided fertile ground for Holocaust deniers, known in local parlance as negationistes. During the last 10 years we have witnessed a horrifying hate crime involving the kidnapping and murder of a young Jew, Ilan Halimi; an Islamist terror attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse that claimed the lives of three children and a rabbi; and a burgeoning anti-Semitic social movement that takes as its symbol an inverted Nazi salute known as the “quenelle.”

Small wonder, then, that French Jewish leaders are continually asked whether their community has a future in the long term. Nonetheless, it is a question French Jewish leaders answer with patience and good grace, as I discovered when I met in New York with a delegation from CRIF, the representative body of French Jewry.

At the head of the delegation is Roger Cukierman, the elder statesman of French Jews who was first elected as CRIF’s president in 2001. Sitting in the offices of the World Jewish Congress, where he also serves as a vice president, Cukierman was candid about the profound problems the community faces, while emphasizing its extraordinary durability.

“There have been Jews in France for the last 2,000 years,” Cukierman said, listing the names of Rashi, the great 11th-century rabbi; Michel de Montaigne, the 16th-century Renaissance author; and Marcel Proust, the 20th-century novelist. Even as he acknowledged the many instances of anti-Semitic persecution through the ages, Cukierman noted simply and proudly, “We are still here. And we are not the only country where anti-Semitism is developing. It may develop in America also.”

Still, there is a genuine urgency about the situation in France. A recent survey of global anti-Semitism issued by Tel Aviv University reported 110 violent attacks on French Jews in 2013 – the highest single number for any country. More alarming is the fact that though Jews make up just one percent of the French population, they are the target of 40 percent of racist assaults in the country. It isn’t surprising, then, that David Tibi, a Jewish leader in Paris, recently declared, “We no longer have a place in France.”

Cukierman is insistent that Jews do have a place in France, adding that anti-Semitism emanates from three distinct sources, rather than being a general phenomenon. First, there is the far right, traditionally the home of Holocaust deniers and Vichy-era apologists. Second, there is the far left, whose aggressive promotion of the BDS campaign against Israel “affects the comfort of living in France for Jews,” Cukierman said. Third, there are the banlieues, run-down suburbs that are home to disaffected Muslim youths who are frequently the executors of violent anti-Semitic acts.

Any mention of the banlieuesinevitably leads to a discussion of Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, the notorious comedian whose attempts at humor are often little more than crude Jew-baiting antics. It was Dieudonne who popularized the quenelle, the anti-Semitic gesture that became internationally known when it was performed by the French soccer star Nicholas Anelka, a friend of Dieudonne’s, during a match in England.

Among the numerous challenges in responding to Dieudonne is his appeal to young people in France, many of whom are attracted by his anti-establishment stance, his hatred of Israel, and his mockery of the Holocaust.

Lauder Raps Polish Forbes over Jewish Property Allegations

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

The World Jewish Congress slammed a Polish magazine report that alleged corrupt practices in the restitution and management of Jewish property in Poland.

In a statement issued Sept. 18, WJC President Ronald Lauder called the report in the Polish edition of Forbes magazine “littered with factual errors” and “sensationalist,” and its allegations “unfounded and slanderous.”

The Forbes report, published several weeks ago, comprised several articles that targeted the leaders of Poland’s organized Jewish community along with the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, or FODZ, the WJC and the World Jewish Restitution Organization.

One of the articles described Piotr Kadlcik, the president of Poland’s Union of Jewish Communities, as one who “likes a drink or many and can often be seen on the street trying to find his bearings.” It called Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, “the perfect rabbi to foster corruption.”

Another article accused Monika Krawczyk, CEO of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, as “charged by her employers, the largest Jewish world organizations, with selling and liquidating as fast as feasible the half of the restituted communal property she controls on behalf of those organizations, and with transferring the moneys to their bank accounts for further waste … to hell with Polish Jews!”

Lauder said he had to respond to the articles’ allegations in his position as chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, or WJRO, as well as president of the WJC.

“To make it very clear,” he said in his statement, “neither the WJC nor the WJRO, of which the WJC is a founding member, have ever sought or received money coming from the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, as the articles suggest.”

The reports, Lauder continued, “are littered with factual errors, and it is lamentable that the authors did not bother to check the facts. This makes me, and many others, wonder if they approached the whole issue with the motive to portray the entire [Jewish] community in a bad light and perhaps to put a stop of the ongoing restitution process of Jewish communal property.”

In a related statement, the WJRO said it had “full confidence in the work of FODZ and its CEO Monika Krawczyk.” It said FODZ operates “in an open and transparent way and files annual audit reports with the Polish Ministry of Administration.”

The FODZ, according to the statement, “has only funded projects inside Poland and neither WJRO nor WJRO member organizations have ever received any allocations for projects or activities from FODZ.”

Pope Francis Conveys Rosh Hashanah Greetings

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Pope Francis in a meeting with Jewish leaders sent Rosh Hashanah greetings to Jews worldwide and expressed “concern” at the ban on kosher slaughter in Poland.

At an audience Monday at the Vatican with World Jewish Congress heads, the pope said he was directing a cardinal to investigate the situation in Poland, where a ban has been in effect on ritual slaughter since January.

Francis met with a WJC delegation headed by the organization’s president, Ronald Lauder, who presented the pontiff with a kiddush cup and a honey cake.

A WJC statement said the pontiff and Lauder spoke about the situation in Syria “and agreed to speak out against attacks on religious minorities, such as Coptic Christians in Egypt and against trends to restrict well-established religious practices such as circumcision.”

In addition, according to the statement, “The pope specifically expressed concern about the bans on kosher slaughter in Poland and directed Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Vatican’s Commission for Relations with the Jews, to investigate and host a follow-up meeting as early as next week.”

The WJC said the pope, using the Hebrew phrase “Shanah Tovah,” asked Lauder to convey holiday wishes to Jewish communities worldwide. The group said the pontiff reiterated a statement made last June that “a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite” and said that “to be good a Christian it is necessary to understand Jewish history and traditions.”

Referring to the conflict in Syria, “the pope called the killing of human beings unacceptable and said world leaders must do everything to avoid war,” according to the WJC.

Francis has met with Jewish leaders and representatives on a number of occasions since his election to the papacy in March. The WJC called it his “first private audience with an international Jewish leader” since becoming pope.

The delegation also included WJC leaders Robert Singer and Maram Stern and the heads of the Latin American Jewish Congress, Jack Terpins and Claudio Epelman.

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.

Claims Conference Looking to Quell Media Storm on 2001 Letter

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Amid calls that the Claims Conference bungled a warning in 2001 about fraud within the organization, conference, leaders appointed a committee to “formulate an appropriate course of action.”

The move, announced by board chairman Julius Berman in an email to board members on Sunday, followed an announcement by the World Jewish Congress that it was setting up its own task force to look into allegations of a cover-up by the Claims Conference.

The allegations concern an anonymous letter sent to the Claims Conference’s Frankfurt office in 2001 that identified five cases in which restitution was approved for ineligible claimants. The letter reached the organization’s then-director in Germany, Karl Brozik, who queried Semen Domnitser, the official in New York who approved the cases and who was found guilty two weeks ago of spearheading the $57 million fraud scheme that run unimpeded at the Claims Conference from 1993 to 2009. In his 2001 response to Brozik, Domnitser acknowledged that the cases had been wrongfully approved but led officials to believe that any errors were inadvertent. The fraud scheme continued to run for nearly a decade more.

Among those who were CC’d on Domnitser’s response to Brozik was the former chief of the conference, Saul Kagan, it’s then-chief, Gideon Taylor, and its current chief, Greg Schneider, whose formal title is executive vice president.

While a Claims Conference staffer who conducted an internal review for the organization in 2001 expressed serious concerns about Domnitser and other Claims Conference employees who reviewed and approved the fraudulent applications, the organization failed to take action against Domnitser.

In recent days, critics have accused the Claims Conference of orchestrating a cover-up of the episode. But Schneider’s office denies the accusations, noting that it was the Claims Conference itself — by way of Schneider — that shared the letter with the FBI and called attention to it during Domnitser’s trial to demonstrate how Domnitser systematically lied to his superiors.

Though Schneider was CC’d on Domnitser’s response to Brozik, a Claims Conference spokeswoman said Schneider did not see the original anonymous 2001 letter and at the time was not the person who would have handled the matter, because several people senior to him were involved. Ultimately, it was Brozik who elected not to inquire further into the irregularities, the Claims Conference said. Brozik is now deceased.

“I have asked our Chairman of the Executive, Amb. Reuven Merhav, to head a Select Leadership Committee of the board to formulate an appropriate course of action for the Conference with respect to the issues surrounding the 2001 letter,” Berman wrote in his email Sunday. “I look forward to its deliberations and recommendation.”

The $57 million fraud scheme discovered in 2009 involved falsifying applications to the Hardship Fund, an account established by the German government to provide one-time payments of approximately $3,360 to those who fled the Nazis as they moved east through Germany, and the 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.

In all, 31 people were arrested in connection with the scheme. Twenty-eight pleaded guilty and the three who went to trial were found guilty this month in federal court in Manhattan.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/claims-conference-looking-to-quell-media-storm-on-2001-letter/2013/05/20/

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