The government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán settled an ongoing feud
with the Conference of Material Claims Against Germany on Saturday, signing a
deal to resume providing reparations to Hungarian Holocaust survivors located
In 2007, Hungary pledged $21 million to be distributed over five
years to native Holocaust survivors, facilitated in part by the Claims
A new settlement was to be signed last year before Budapest’s
decision to freeze money transfers.
Budapest cited concerns over
bookkeeping and transparency regarding the disbursement of the funds and sought
the return of $12.6m. that the government said it gave the Claims
The Claims Conference said it only received $8m. for
distribution among Hungarian Holocaust survivors living outside that
The money was transferred initially from the treasury to the
Jewish Heritage of Hungary Public Endowment, or Mazsok, a committee of
government officials and Jewish representatives. Last year the Hungarian
Ministry of Public Administration and Justice said that based on the report
submitted by the Claims Conference to date, “it is impossible to identify the
individuals eligible for compensation.”
However, Gustav Zoltai, the
executive director of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary
(Mazsihisz), told The Jerusalem Post
that the issue came down to a simple
problem of mistaken identities.
“The Claims Conference did not make this
money disappear,” he said. Rather, the Claims Conference’s list of survivors in
Israel did not match the list of survivors held by the Hungarian government due
to refugees arriving in Israel and Hebraicizing their names.
not identify the persons. That was the problem,” he said.
shortly before the completion of the deal, György Szabó, president of
the Mazsok, said the negotiations took five months, but that all outstanding
issues had been resolved.
According to a report from the Hungarian MTI
news agency posted on the Mazsihisz website, the government will begin
transferring the funds, totaling $5.6m., within three days in a process overseen
by the international auditing company KPMG.
The issue of transparency
will be a significant one at this week’s meeting of the board of the Claims
Conference, which is comprised of representatives of Jewish communities and
organizations from around the globe.
Chairman Julius Berman has come
under fire due to a controversy surrounding a 2001 anonymous tip-off letter
detailing several fraudulent restitution applications which resulted in the
launching of two internal probes that failed to uncover what would later turn
out to be a $57m. fraud committed over a period of 16 years.
interview with the Post
in May, Berman denied having any knowledge that there
was anything wrong before 2009, when the fraud was uncovered. At the time of the
interview, the Claims Conference had laid all blame at the feet of Karl Brozik,
who conducted the first probe and has since passed away.