During the Knesset Finance Committee meeting on Sunday, the members asked German Ambassador to Israel Clemens von Goetze to relay a message to his Government to “update the pension payments so Holocaust survivors may live in dignity.” The ambassador promised to relay the message to the interim government in Berlin and stated that “Germany stands behind its responsibility for the events of the Holocaust.”
In earlier committee meetings, it was revealed that over the past few years the pensions paid by Germany have significantly eroded, even as the pensions paid by the Israeli Government to survivors have been raised. The Israeli Government has also considered the deteriorating health of many survivors and raised their pensions accordingly – while the German Government has so far been refusing to raise pension payments from its end.
According to the Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority at the Finance Ministry, some 6,200 Holocaust survivors who live in Israel receive pension payments from Germany.
Finance committee members stressed that the medical expenses of Holocaust survivors in Israel, most of whom have long since passed the age of 80, have gradually increased. According to the committee’s plan, the Israeli Government will allocate funds to reduce the gap between the pension payments and survivors’ cost of living, and will later be compensated by the German Government.
Mordechai Hareli, chairman of the Organization of Forced Laborers under the Nazi Occupation, said his group’s negotiations with Germany over the past two years have not yielded any results. “We’ve run out of patience,” he said. “Each week a dozen of our brothers and sisters pass away. A solution must be found for us […] The Israeli Government must act and allow the few remaining survivors to live out their remaining years in dignity.”
Eyal Medan of the Finance Ministry’s Budget Division said that according to the Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority, it would cost the State close to $50 million to close the gap between the pension payments from Germany and the pensions paid to the survivors by the Israeli Government. “We are examining the implications of this issue,” he said.
MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) told the Finance Ministry’s representatives: “Today there is an excessive collection of taxes, and there is enough money for other causes, so finance this. Eventually, even if you would want to, there will be no one left to transfer the money to.”
MK Eytan Broshi (Zionist Camp) said, “The wellbeing of the Holocaust survivors takes precedence over anything else because they paid the heaviest price, and also because there is not a lot of time left to find a solution for them. The message that comes out of here should be that without interim funding, there will be no [State Budget – which will be voted on later in March]. We can compromise on other issues, but not on the welfare of the Holocaust survivors.”
Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) also called on the Finance Ministry to increase the funding for Holocaust survivors until Germany updates the pension payments. “These survivors were on the front line of the Nazi horror,” he said. “We truly owe these people. In the current situation, survivors who receive pensions from Germany [receive less] than other survivors, so the Israeli Government must help, temporarily, until these funds arrive from Germany.”
“We cannot wait. It will be a stain on all of us. We have a moral obligation to the survivors, and they cannot wait until the negotiations with Germany end,” Gafni added.