Berman Julius 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against
Germany (the Claims Conference), has accused The Jerusalem Post and other media
of unbalanced coverage of his organization, which distributes millions of
dollars from the German government to Holocaust survivors around the
The most recent controversy was sparked by a May 14 report in The
Forward that the Claims Conference received an anonymous letter in 2001
identifying fraudulent Holocaust-era restitution claims, eight years before a
massive fraud scheme was uncovered in the organization.
(In 2009, it was
disclosed that more than $57 million in illegitimate payouts had been stolen
from funds administered by the Claims Conference over 16 years. This resulted in
the arrests and convictions by a New York court of 31 people.)
In his article in
(“Combating the politicization of Holocaust restitution”), Berman
suggests that biased media reports were based on the views of certain unnamed
individuals operating for “political or personal gain.”
individuals fed the media in general, and The Jerusalem Post
in particular, a
web of lies and distortions surrounding the recent court case that culminated
almost four years of investigation of fraudulent activities,” Berman writes.
“Former Claims Conference employees colluded with a group of outsiders to steal
tens of millions of dollars from funds administered by the Claims
Berman squarely rejects claims that the Claims Conference
was involved in a cover-up of the fraudulent activities.
critic is Post columnist Isi Leibler, who has called on Claims Conference
leaders to step down over what he termed their gross mismanagement of funds
slated for Holocaust survivors.
Despite the harsh criticism from Leibler
and others, the board of trustees reelected Berman and other Claims Conference
leaders, including executive vice president Greg Schneider, at a meeting in New
York in July.
We reject Berman’s claim that the Post
was “careless with
the truth.” We regret any harm done to his good name or to that of his
One reason for the appearance that we gave critics more
space and prominence is that the organization at some point refused to comment
on the developing scandal. For its part, the Claims Conference says it was not
given due time to respond to inquiries before an article was
If we omitted salient facts, we accept responsibility for this
oversight. One such fact is that not one Holocaust victim was deprived of any
The role of the Claims Conference in uncovering and investigating
the misappropriation of funds was for the most part unacknowledged.
parties that meticulously investigated fraudulent acts in the organization,
including the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office, have determined that
the Claims Conference acted appropriately. The Manhattan US attorney publicly
“thanked the Claims Conference for bringing this matter to the FBI’s
attention... and for their outstanding ongoing assistance and for its
extraordinary continued cooperation in this investigation.”
the German government – the only party to have lost out as a result of the fraud
– has given the Claims Conference a consistent vote of confidence. It continued
working closely with the Claims Conference for the benefit of survivors, even
while the investigation was ongoing. During negotiations with the Claims
Conference last May, the German government agreed to provide an extra $1 billion
over four years for home care to needy Jewish Holocaust victims.
Claims Conference should be subject to an open, honest investigation. It should
also, however, be treated fairly, especially because for more than six decades
it has been intimately involved in the huge humanitarian task of assisting
Holocaust survivors and negotiating with the German government.
prides itself on independent investigation and fair coverage. As much as we try
in good faith, we do not always get the balance completely right, and when we
err we are prepared to admit our mistakes and apologize, as we do for any
wrongdoing in our coverage of the Claims Conference.