Stephan Kramer 370.
(photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
The Conference of Material Claims Against Germany has failed to provide members
of its board copies of an internal ombudsman’s report examining how the
organization’s leadership failed to prevent the theft of $57 million meant to
aid holocaust survivors, a board member representing German Jewry has told The
During a phone interview on Sunday, Stephan Kramer, the
secretary-general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, lamented that he
has not been able to examine the report by ombudsman Shmuel Hollander prior to
the Claims Conference’s upcoming July 9 board meeting.
council has two seats on the board of the Claims Conference, of which Kramer
The councilman said the failure to provide copies of the
report early enough, to give board members “sufficient time” to examine its
conclusions has left him with a “bad taste” in his mouth.
want to give it to us just [before] the meeting or during the meeting in a hard
copy and then we may not even have enough time to read [it],” he
With his statements, Kramer has become the first member of the
board to publicly criticize the Claims Conference.
including those of Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and World Jewish
Congress President Ronald Lauder, were written in direct letters to members of
the board which were then leaked to the press.
In 2001, an anonymous
tipoff letter resulted in an internal probe that failed to uncover would eventually turn out to be an almost sixty million dollar fraud scheme being orchestrated by Semen Domnitser, a
Claims Conference employee. In May, Domnitser was found guilty of overseeing the
The letter was received by a conference official who investigated
the matter without finding any evidence of wrongdoing. After the 2001 letter
went public, a claims conference spokeswoman placed responsibility for not
investigating further on the official, who died in 2004.
However, the JTA
subsequently reported that a paralegal working for the law firm of then-board
member and pro bono counsel Julius Berman launched a second investigation, which
also terminated without uncovering the fraud.
Berman became the chairman
In May, Berman appointed board member Reuven Merhav to lead a
Select Leadership Committee that would investigate the events surrounding the
2001 letter. However, this move was deemed insufficient by some board
Hollander was then tasked with examining the matter after
several members of the board, representing major organizations such as the
Jewish Agency and World Jewish Congress, called for an independent
Kramer also said that according to the meeting’s agenda,
nominations for top executives by the board’s nominating committee will precede
any discussion of the Hollander report.
“I’m a little concerned about the
agenda,” he said. The report is “going to be discussed at the very end of the
agenda which I think is not the appropriate way of dealing with
Kramer said that on Monday he plans on sending a letter to other
members of the board asking that the discussion of the report be moved up to the
beginning of the meeting and that they be provided copies in advance of the
A critical discussion of the report, he said, must come before
“we do the business as usual things of the board.”
Kramer also critiqued
Berman, saying that he “is not doing himself a favor with putting the
ombudsman’s report and the whole issue at the end.”
“I think we should
know and discuss the ombudsman’s report and the incident and events that have
taken place so far so that everybody is informed before we go into elections and
reconfirmation on [Berman’s] position,” he said. “I think it is very important
that we go into this confirmation process with all the facts; knowing them and
having discussed them.”
The Claims Conference did not reply to a request