Albert Einstein once said: “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters
cannot be trusted with important matters.”
There is perhaps no more
important matter facing the Jewish world at the beginning of the 21st century
than finishing attaining symbolic compensation for those who suffered
unspeakable persecution at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.
However, there are a few voices who are attempting to stymie these
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (the
Claims Conference) is an international organization, with a board of directors
that is composed of representatives of Jewish national and international
organizations around the world. The Claims Conference applies the highest levels
of normative transparency and its accounts are available online for all to
It is against this background that the Claims Conference is being
hounded by a few individuals who have been “careless with the truth” – to put it
mildly – during recent months.
These individuals have 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. Former Claims Conference employees
colluded with a group of outsiders to steal tens of millions of dollars from
funds administered by the Claims Conference.
The investigation by the FBI
into the fraud perpetrated against the Claims Conference was instigated by the
Claims Conference, which uncovered the fraud in 2009, and the subsequent public
trial convicted those individuals involved in the egregious fraud.
fact, all parties who were involved and meticulously investigated the fraudulent
acts, including the FBI and the US Attorney for the Southern District of New
York, have explicitly recognized that the Claims Conference acted
Moreover, US Attorney Preet Bharara repeatedly and
publicly “thanked the Claims Conference for bringing this matter to the FBI’s
attention... for their outstanding ongoing assistance and for its extraordinary
continued cooperation in this investigation.”
Additionally, the German
government, whose funds were defrauded, has given the Claims Conference a vote
of confidence in that after the discovery of the fraud, it continued negotiating
with the Claims Conference and, as recently as May of this year, signed an
agreement committing to provide approximately $1 billion, over a four-year
period, for home care for Jewish Holocaust victims, with the annual amount
increasing every year through 2017.
The Claims Conference will continue
to act solely in the interests of Holocaust victims.
Certainly, we are
absolutely not above reproach; yet, undermining the organization that is
officially mandated to seek and distribute the necessary and deserved funds to
Holocaust survivors will only end up hurting those badly in need.
exactly what happened during the recent episode.
In May, the Post
published a front-page article asserting in its headline that the Claims
Conference was involved in a “cover-up” surrounding the fraudulent activities,
although we were the first to alert the relevant authorities. This article, the
only of its kind in all of the dozens of media articles reporting on the court
case, apparently rested on a single source that created a fictitious letter to
the Claims Conference heads, purportedly from World Jewish Congress President
While there was indeed an actual letter sent to us by Mr.
Lauder, it did not remotely suggest any type of shadowy “cover-up.”
source for this wholly inaccurate and possibly libelous distortion appears to
have been someone who has been leveling baseless attacks on the Claims
Conference, in general, and against me, specifically, for years.
distortion created a snowball effect, which spurred a new wave of reporting on
the issue that took up many column inches around the world.
of this reporting rested on very shallow and easily disprovable
Unfortunately, few, if any, bothered to ask for first-hand
evidence, preferring instead to ride a wave of sensationalism, which, while
leveled against me and other Claims Conference leaders, ultimately could have
hurt the survivors.
Fortunately, the body whose role is vital for
continued compensation and essential social services to needy survivors, the
German government, was satisfied with our continuing work.
All of this
could have been adduced quite easily. However, some of the reporting was far too
effortlessly swayed by sensationalist and baseless accusations.
understand, in an era where the media is suffering financially, that the more
sensationalist the headline the more people are likely to read the article. We
see this played out every day in the reporting on the Israel-Palestinian
However, this issue is far too important to be left without
full scrutiny. The Post is correctly considered a very well-read and respected
paper in Israel, the Jewish world and beyond. It is incumbent upon those dealing
with the issue of Holocaust compensation to be very careful in their accusations
I am certainly not above criticism. However, let us stop
relying on unreliable sources and stick to the issue of survivors’ needs, the
huge increases in funds that the Claims Conference has negotiated and the
services it provides, and how we work together to address unmet need in the
survivors’ final years.
As Einstein said, those who are so casual with
the truth cannot be relied on in matters of such importance.The writer
is chairman of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.