Four years ago, Zvi Unger lit a torch at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony
at Yad Vashem, but the honor bestowed upon him then has not elevated him above
having to occasionally battle bureaucratic red tape.
Two years ago, Unger
requested his restitution stipend to be transferred from the Conference on
Jewish Material Claims Against Germany to the Holocaust Survivors Rights
Authority in the Finance Ministry because he was told he would receive more
benefits. But his application is still being held up.
“I sent a letter in
April 2010,” he said over the phone from Malkiya, a kibbutz on the border with
Lebanon which he helped found. “I kept sending letters – and have all the
receipts and dates written down – but despite receiving a call or two asking
more information my request still has not been approved.”
Unger is the
sole survivor of a family of 11. When he arrived at Auschwitz in 1943, at age
14, he told Josef Mengele, the notorious Nazi doctor, that he was 18 and was
thus spared being sent to the gas chambers. He was liberated by the Americans in
Buchenwald in 1945 together with author Elie Wiesel and former chief Rabbi
Yisrael Meir Lau after surviving a death march from Auschwitz.
this year, the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority asked Unger to provide a
letter from an attorney confirming his transfer request.
Unger said he
returned the letter four months ago but had not heard from the the authority
A Finance Ministry representative said on Wednesday that Unger
should expect a response to his application shortly.
“Only on February 26
 did the authority receive the needed material to determine his request’s
eligibility,” the Finance Ministry representative said. “Once it is determined
whether Mr. Unger is eligible to receive a stipend from the authority the
transfer will be carried out. A decision is due in the next few
Unger vehemently rejected the Treasury’s claims, saying he had
sent all the documents asked of him over the past two years promptly. In any
case, he said, the Treasury’s reply that his application will be processed soon
was of little comfort after having to wait two years since it started.
don’t need the money, I’m financially sound,” he said. “I worry about other
Holocaust survivors who do.
What matters here is that requests are
handled efficiently and survivors are treated with respect.”