Holocaust survivors in Israel_311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
They suffered a similar fate to European Jews during World War II, yet 67 years
after the war, thousands of North African Holocaust victims remain unrecognized
by the State of Israel and are ineligible for compensation.
Dr. Miriam Gez-Avigal, chairwoman of the Public Committee for the Integration of
Eastern Jews, immigrants who moved to Israel after 1953 fail to receive
Holocaust-era restitution – despite efforts made over the past decade to
recognize and compensate Holocaust survivors from Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and
“On this Remembrance Day, we are calling on the government to
address a historical injustice and immediately provide compensation to survivors
who immigrated from North Africa after 1953,” Gez-Avigal said. She estimates
there are 2,000 survivors from Tunisia and a few thousand more from other North
“There is no reason that people who were persecuted by the Nazis and who
suffered during the war should live out the last years of their lives destitute
and without dignity because of unjust and unreasonable legislation,” Gez-Avigal
During the war, much of North Africa was either under direct Nazi
occupation or under the control of its allies.
Jews there were singled
out for harsh treatment, with many sent to forced labor or death camps in Europe
while others had their property repossessed or were forced to wear a yellow
Following the war and the creation of the Jewish state, North
African Jews sought aliya – similar to communities from Europe – but, according
to Gez-Avigal, their arrival was delayed due to logistical
Decisions made by the Jewish Agency meant that many Tunisian
Jews did not emigrate until the mid-1950s.
Despite the fact that North
African Jews could not schedule an aliya date, a 1957 law dealing with
compensation for victims of Nazi persecution states that only those who arrived
in Israel before 1953 are officially eligible to receive financial
Today this pay comes – via the government-run Holocaust
survivors Rights Authority located in the Finance Ministry – from German and
other European governments under various agreements reached with the Conference
for Material Claims Against Germany.
“We have been recognized by the
German government and the French government, the money is there but the Treasury
has refused to release it because the law does not recognize those that came
after 1953,” Gez-Avigal said, adding that the dwindling Holocaust survivors’
living situations deteriorate daily.
The Finance Ministry says that
survivors who arrived after 1953 miss the compensation threshold but emphasize
that additional amendments expanded eligibility for a few thousand Libyan Jews
who came before 1953. Survivors of death camps, labor camps and ghettos –
regardless of when they arrived here – collect Holocaust restitution
Nachum Itzkovitz, director-general of the Welfare and Social
Services Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post
that he was among the first to
publicize the loophole excluding thousands of North African survivors from
additional financial aid.
“There is no doubt that we have already taken
many steps to address this problem, even though there is a lot more that needs
to be done,” Itzkovitz said, as the law excluding those who made aliya after
1953 also neglects other countries’ survivors.
Itzkovitz said that a law
passed in 2008 expanded the definition of who is a Holocaust survivor and
increased the number of people eligible for financial assistance. The ministry
hears requests from many individuals who believe that they now qualify for
“We are aware of the problems and that more needs to be done, but I
would like to take this opportunity to urge everyone to do what they can for
Holocaust survivors; money alone does not address the problems of loneliness
that many of them feel,” added Itzkovitz.
A spokeswoman for the Claims
Conference – which represents world Jewry in negotiating compensation and
restitution for victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs – said negotiations
with the German government to recognize the persecution of North African Jews
has lingered for years.
Despite some success in including victims whose
freedom of movement was restricted by the Nazi regime or its allies, the Claims
Conference is continuing its efforts to ensure that more survivors and Nazi
victims from those countries are included in German-funded compensation
programs, the spokeswoman said.