Claims Conference to increase aid for Holocaust survivors

By
December 15, 2014 15:56

In May the Claims Conference reached an agreement with Germany securing $1 billion in funding through 2017.

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SURVIVORS GATHER at the Jewish Holocaust Center in MelbourneRABBI PINCHAS ZEKRY

SURVIVORS GATHER at the Jewish Holocaust Center in Melbourne. (photo credit:Courtesy)

Holocaust survivors worldwide are set to receive an increase in aid in 2015, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany announced on Monday.

The organization, which has coordinated Holocaust restitution efforts since the 1950s, will increase its allocation over the coming year to social service organizations tending to elderly survivors by 21 percent over 2014. All told, $365 million has been earmarked for disbursement.

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Approximately 400m. NIS is set to be allocated to Israeli survivors.

According to the Claims Conference, the funds come from increased German restitution payments as well as private foundations, the Austrian government and a settlement with Swiss banks.

In May the Claims Conference reached an agreement with Germany securing $1 billion in funding through 2017.

“All Shoah [Holocaust] victims should be able to receive the help and support that they need to live the rest of their lives in dignity, after having endured indescribable suffering in their youth,” Claims Conference President Julius Berman said in a statement.

“This tremendous increase in funding will directly help many survivors, including those who need more help at home than they currently receive as well as those needing care for the first time. Abandoned by the world in their youth, Holocaust victims deserve all the aid and comfort that it is possible to give them in the twilight of their lives.”

Colette Avital, chairwoman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, welcomed the increased funding.

“The additional funds distributed in Israel and in other countries, including the former Soviet Union and the Ukraine were increased incrementally over the next four years by the German government,” Avital told The Jerusalem Post.

“In Israel , the sum of 400m. NIS is transferred to the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors and they distribute it to a list of victims, which is coordinated with and approved by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry. To the best of our knowledge payments are made efficiently and on time.”

Berman and other senior leaders stood at the center of a major controversy last year after reports surfaced that indicated leaders of the conference had been warned in 2001 that a massive fraud was being perpetrated against their organization, a scam which ultimately cost it $57m.

A report by the conference’s ombudsman, Shmuel Hollander, released in July 2013 said that “management failings” were responsible for “facilitating” the fraud, which was conducted over a period of 16 years.

The report pointed to “systematic failings and problematic organization[al] behavior” and “the absence of professional control systems… [which] constituted a key factor in enabling, and certainly in facilitating, the fraud.”

The controversy surrounding the Holocaust restitution organization centers around a 2001 tip-off letter sent to the conference that resulted in two internal probes – one conducted by current chairman and then-board member and pro bono counsel Julius Berman – that failed to uncover the embezzlement.

Hollander said that among the leaders of the Claims Conference, “no one... who was aware of the [2001] letter, treated it with the gravity that it demanded at the time.”

The Claims Conference announced that it would revise internal security procedures to prevent a recurrence of the fraud and to fix the organizational problems that allowed it to occur.

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