Court to rule on Holocaust orphans compensation lawsuit

The case deals with the plight of "Teheran children," a group of 1,200 orphans smuggled from Poland to Palestine via Teheran in 1943.

yellow star 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
yellow star 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Supreme Court is slated to rule on Thursday whether a group of Holocaust orphans can press ahead with a lawsuit against the State of Israel to receive compensation for their suffering during World War II. The case deals with the plight of the so-called "Teheran children," a group of 1,200 mostly orphaned Jewish children smuggled from Poland to Palestine via Teheran in 1943. Four years ago, 200 of these children - now all seniors - filed suit against the state in a Tel Aviv court for compensation they said they deserved as part of Israel's historic 1952 reparations agreement with Germany. The state, citing the statute of limitations, had asked the Tel Aviv District Court not to hear the case and then filed an appeal in the country's highest court after the Tel Aviv court said the case should go ahead. "If the Swiss banks were acting the way the State of Israel is responding to this case, the public in Israel would be shocked," said Gad Weissfeld, the claimants' attorney. "The state's behavior in this case is embarrassing, and their claims are revolting." The story of the Teheran children dates back to when Jewish refugees from Poland crossed the border into Russia to escape the Nazis during the war. Many of the children were sent to orphanages in Russia to escape hunger and harsh wartime living conditions. Eventually, the children made their way to Teheran in 1942 as part of a group of Polish refugees, where they were assisted by the Jewish Agency and housed in tent encampments. Then, after long negotiations with the British administration in Palestine, the children were eventually granted immigration certificates and reached Palestine by British boats in 1943. "As these people reach the cusp of their life, it is befitting that the state should work to improve their conditions and support them financially instead of choosing to conduct an exhausting legal battle on the backs of elderly survivors," Weissfeld said. The Justice Ministry had no immediate comment on the case Wednesday. About 250,000 Holocaust survivors currently live in the country. Nearly one-third of them live in poverty, welfare reports have found, prompting a recent accord for additional government assistance.