The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or Claims Conference,
from its inception in 1951, was created as an institution representing world
Jewry. To this end, major Jewish organizations from across the world were
invited at the time to participate and make the decisions necessary to secure a
small measure of justice for those Jews who suffered under Nazi persecution, and
heirs of victims.
For 60 years, one of our greatest strengths has been
our diversity, uniting Jews from various countries and denominations, and
bringing together survivors with other Jews, in pursuit of common
For decades, the Claims Conference was heavily focused on those
goals and achieving the best possible results for each and every
However, with our focus on achievement, rather than
recognition, we have allowed a narrative about the Claims Conference and
survivor needs to be hijacked by persistent critics who make inaccurate and
unfounded assertions against the Claims Conference.
To address these
accusations, we have increased our visibility and highlighted our transparency.
In communicating with the public, we have posted all there is to know about the
Claims Conference on our four-language website, including an annual audit by
KPMG, details of all allocations and financial reports. In addition, at the
recent Claims Conference Board of Directors meeting, it was agreed that a
completely independent ombudsman would be appointed.
However, this is not
enough for some, and undignified attacks need to be answered. The Claims
Conference will not attempt to rebut every scurrilous assertion, but we can and
will demonstrate how, while our challenges are many, our achievements on behalf
of Holocaust survivors are significant, ongoing and will not be derailed by
hearsay and conjecture.
While the recent fraud was a sophisticated
criminal act perpetrated against the Claims Conference, not one survivor
suffered as a result. We continue to disburse payments to Holocaust victims
while still negotiating to include more survivors in compensation programs.
Recent negotiations with the German government have resulted in unprecedented
funding for survivor home care through 2014, totaling approximately $700 million
over the next four years.
Of the above-mentioned amount, the Claims
Conference allocated $270m. for 2011 alone, an increase of $100m. from just two
years ago. The dramatic increase in survivor care funds obtained by the Claims
Conference was one of the issues discussed at the organization’s recent annual
meeting of its Board of Directors.
At these annual meetings, board
members representing Jewish organizations from around the world come together to
grapple with the complex and still-pressing matters related to Holocaust
compensation and survivor care.
The increase in Claims Conference
allocations to agencies around the world will provide Holocaust victims with
home care and vital help with basic activities of daily living such as eating,
dressing and bathing, as well as other services that greatly ease the lives of
elderly Holocaust victims and enable them to continue living in their own
At this year’s annual meeting, the Claims Conference also
announced a new compensation program for Holocaust victims in certain Eastern
European countries, who have never before received any payment as recognition of
their persecution. These one-time payments to 7,000 victims will total around
In addition, our board also approved a number of recommendations of
the Special Committee for Allocations Policy Review (APRC), including striving
to provide at least 25 hours or more per week of home care assistance to all
needy survivors with the greatest level of disability worldwide and maintaining
the current funding level of $18m. per year for Holocaust education,
documentation and research.
Due to the greatly increased funds for social
welfare services, these grants now represent 6 percent of total Claims
Conference allocations. The primary focus in this area should be education,
including teacher training, personal presentation of survivor testimonies,
museums, and specialized educational visits for students to Holocaust-related
The ongoing debate over Claims Conference allocations for
education and documentation is important.
Our board includes both those
who would like to see greater and smaller allocations for these programs, with
Holocaust survivors also voicing a range of opinions.
debate has been raging for many years and should continue. The very nature of
the Claims Conference’s work produces highly charged emotions. In this case, the
board has resolved that using the assets of those who perished to preserve their
memory is important, but overall, 94% of all allocations should be for welfare
services for survivors.
A couple of years ago it became fashionable to
criticize the Claims Conference, with many of the most vocal critics knowing
little or nothing about our work. However many of these former critics have
investigated the issues and now understand that the Claims Conference has worked
assiduously for survivors’ rights and welfare and attained significant results
through decades of negotiations.
The handful of perennial critics has
willfully ignored both the results we have attained and the voluminous
information on our website about Claims Conference activities.
real audience knows the results of our work: The nearly 70,000 needy and
disabled survivors who receive home care; the tens of thousands of survivors who
are receiving new or increased compensation payments; and the thousands of heirs
who have recovered family assets.
This work attests to the organization’s
effectiveness and importance.
All together in 2010, the organization
distributed $675m. to benefit Holocaust victims and heirs.
Our focus will
remain on our task as we have done during our 60-year history, obtaining a small
measure of justice for the victims of history’s greatest crime.The
writer is chairman of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany