Stolen Victimhood

Reparation claims prompt a fresh look at Jewish suffering in the USSR during World War II

07jude (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Cover story in Issue 7, July 21, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. Rochla Trachtman survived the Holocaust, but she isn't a Holocaust survivor. The 88-year-old Yiddish-speaking woman, blind and wheel-chair bound, lives in a tenement in Jaffa with a 24-hour caretaker. Sitting in her neat, modest living room, she tells a visitor that she, her husband Haim and their infant daughter, Eta, fled from Kishinev, Moldava, on the eve of the German invasion of Soviet territory, in June 1941. They boarded a cattle wagon, which took them to Stalingrad (today Volgograd, Russia) on the west bank of the Volga River. Caught up in one of the bloodiest battles ever, they endured bombardment and starvation. The baby died in her arms. But they were among the very few people who survived the Battle of Stalingrad. They eventually found sanctuary in a Soviet kolkhoz collective farm. Immediately after the war, Haim was arrested for being a Zionist and he served eight years of a 10-year sentence in a Soviet prison, cut short only by Stalin's death in 1953. "We had two murderers to deal with, Hitler and Stalin," Trachtman says bitterly. Haim and Rochla lived quiet lives after his release and raised a second daughter. He died and Trachtman and her late daughter (who passed away from illness) came to Israel in 1990, part of the massive wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union. A tale of survival, if there ever was one. But the hundreds of thousands of Eastern European Jews, who, like Rochla, managed to flee countries such as Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, to find a precarious refuge behind the Soviet lines and lived to tell the tale, have never won what they consider adequate recognition or financial reparations for their suffering and loss of property. And even the paltry sums which were allocated to them by the German government have in many cases not reached some of the victims, due to obstruction by the very organization that was supposed to distribute them, the New York based Conference on Material Claims Against Germany Inc., better known as the Claims Conference, established in 1951 by Israel and Jewish Diaspora leaders to handle reparation and restitution issues for Jewish Nazi victims. In early June, Tel Aviv District Court Judge Oded Mudrick handed down a blistering decision in a 6-year-old lawsuit against the Conference brought by 1,915 Soviet bloc immigrants who were refugees from Nazi-occupied territories during World War II. He accepted plaintiffs' arguments that the Jewish organization deviously blocked them from receiving lump-sum payments of DM 5,000 per person from a German Hardship Fund, which the Claims Conference administers - sums which were supposed to be paid in 2002. Mudrick found that the Conference behaved like a "for-profit company, which has to watch its bottom line." And it's not as if those who are recognized as Holocaust survivors are all getting a square deal (see "Reparations Remedies," on page 14). According to a late-June report on Israel's treatment of all Holocaust survivors by a special Investigative Commission appointed in January 2008 by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish and chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, the government cheated many camp and ghetto survivors of their German disability reparations. Some 63,000 survivors do receive pensions from the German or Israeli governments that keep many above the poverty line set at roughly $400 per month. But the commission report, presented to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said the state had not "upheld its moral obligation" to them and many others among the half a million Holocaust survivors who chose to make Israel their home after 1953. A year earlier, a global settlement between West Germany and Israel was signed, indemnifying the former against future claims by Israelis. Dorner found that a sizable portion of these global reparations were used for state-building and collective purpose, and never repaid to the survivors. She also parsed out the different categories of "survivorhood" in her report as well as the plight of Soviet bloc Jews who receive minimal or no aid, agreeing that the state could not afford to pay these people pensions but that they were indeed Nazi persecutees who deserved more free social services. In late June, at the initiative of Knesset Member Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor-Meimad), the Knesset plenum voted 9-1 to recommend that the Knesset State Control Committee establish a Parliamentary Investigation Inquiry into the activities of the Conference. Not being an "official" survivor, Rochla Trachtman received what she vaguely says was a minor lump sum payment from a German government fund for former Soviet bloc emigrants. (Her 24-hour care is provided by combined government National Insurance Institute and Claims Conference sources.) She doesn't even have extra money to buy a plum, she complains. "I lost everything in the war, including my baby. Am I not a Holocaust survivor?" she asks indignantly. According to the criteria laid down by the German and Israeli governments and the Conference, she is not; she is merely one of the many millions of other Jewish and non-Jewish and civilian war victims. Trachtman's story is typical of thousands of Jews who, confronted with the Nazi onslaught, fled or were evacuated to Soviet areas that were not overrun by the German army, from Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad in the west to places like the Caucasus, the Urals, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and all the way to Siberia in the east. Many suffered hunger, bombardment, disease and deprivation, but they never lived under German occupation and some never saw a German uniform. When reparation criteria were originally set down after the Second World War by the West German government, one had to have spent a period of time in Nazi-occupied Europe - in a concentration camp or ghetto or in hiding - to qualify. But there are those who believe that not only the refugees from Nazi-occupied areas, but also residents of the parts of the Soviet Union that were never captured by the Nazis, but were only threatened, should also receive Holocaust survivor recognition. There are an estimated 240,000 victims of Nazism living in Israel today, according to government sources. The youngest are in their sixties, and many are poor. Some 80,000-90,000 are from the Former Soviet Union, and 40 percent of these live below the poverty line. Few qualify for reparations although some, like Trachtman, have received modest grants and free or subsidized social services. Until 1980, the West German government refused to pay reparations to Jews from behind the Iron Curtain altogether but in that year it set up what was known as the "Hardship Fund'' to address the needs of Holocaust survivors from Eastern and Central Europe, who had begun emigrating out of the communist countries, first in the 1960s and 70s and then in larger numbers in the 1990s. Jews who fled or were evacuated to non-Nazi occupied regions of the Soviet Union during the Second World War received (and still do) grants from the Hardship Fund, which were (and are) processed by the Conference. The Claims Conference is no stranger to harsh criticism of its methods and practices, particularly regarding its handling of "heirless" Nazi-looted Jewish property in former East Germany, which it "inherited" according to a 1990 German restitution law. And its officials did not appear to be overly concerned about Judge Mudrick's scathing attack in the lawsuit that ended in June. The Conference's lawyers had repeatedly rejected numerous attempts from immigrant activists to settle the case quietly. Spokeswoman Hilary Kessler-Godin told The Jerusalem Report that the Conference was reviewing the court's decision. In an e-mail, she underscored Conference achievements and said the West German government had originally given funds for 80,000 Hardship Fund recipients but "extended negotiations" led to payments to over 300,000 Jews worldwide. Conference "emergency funds" are also used, she wrote, to provide social services for Soviet bloc, Jewish Nazi victims. In Israel, the work is handled by the Tel Aviv-based Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel (also known as the Holocaust Survivors Welfare Fund). Established in 1994, it receives an annual Conference grant of some $45 million to provide services to some 15,000 survivors, half of whom are from the FSU, says Foundation CEO Moshe Shechori. Significantly, this lawsuit doesn't mark the first time that controversy over Soviet Jewish Holocaust memory has come to the fore. Six decades after the war, their suffering during the war remains deeply sensitive for the thousands of elderly immigrants from the Soviet bloc who came to Israel, a country dominated by a powerful Holocaust ethos and home to survivors with tattoos from Auschwitz and other painful visible and emotional scars from their years spent under Nazi occupation. And indeed, money and poverty have long played an interlocking role in Holocaust memory, in part due to the questions of reparations. In 2007, on Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day, some 1,000 survivors conducted their own "March of the Living," walking from the Knesset to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial to protest poverty among Holocaust survivors - mostly among immigrants from the Soviet bloc. In the ensuing public debate, Finance Ministry officials argued that many of the people in question were not in the "first circle" of survivors, meaning not from German-occupied areas, and were not eligible for survivor pensions. The Claims Conference turned down Hardship Fund payments to the 1,915 immigrants in 2002, prompting the lawsuit, but the Knesset immigration caucus, which includes immigrants from the Former Soviet Union Knesset Members Marina Solodkin (Kadima) and Michael Nudelman, Sopha Landver and Yuli Edelshtein (Likud), as well as other legislators such as Pines-Paz, were enraged by what they see as the Conference's stubborn fight against the immigrants. The organization was severely rebuked in a stormy June 17 hearing convened by the Knesset Absorption and Immigration Committee on the issue. Solodkin called the Conference "serial hoodwinkers" for having acted in a "seemingly deceptive manner" toward victims of Nazism, be they former East German property heirs or elderly reparation-seeking immigrants. Speaking to The Report about the case, known formally as Mariana Rodshtein and 1,914 Others v. The Claims Conference, Solodkin told The Report that it had been "a nightmare" to see through. Though the Conference, incorporated as a New York State non-profit and empowered by German law, has been sued before in Israel, its awkward legal status made jurisdiction a problem. Solodkin says former State Comptroller Judge Eliezer Goldberg advised her to play up the fact that the Conference has an official Israeli presence, maintaining an office in Tel Aviv. During the six years since the suit was filed, cartons of files were misplaced and judges were switched several times, causing innumerable delays. At one point Solodkin says she turned to Supreme Court President Beinish for assistance. Solodkin says she is hoping to see a broadening of criteria for reparations to include immigrants from the former Soviet Union. She's currently fighting for compensation for some 6,000 Jews who were in Leningrad while the city was blockaded by the German army from September 1941 to January 1943. An untold number of Jews were among the hundreds of thousands of Soviet civilians who perished from famine during the siege. She says the Jews deserve special compensation because, unlike the non-Jews, they lived in particular terror of a Nazi invasion of the city. "It was tantamount to living under a death sentence," she says. The German Finance Ministry has balked at broadening criteria and including the Leningrad Jews in its reparation schemes. She has also been approached by women who resided during the war years in unoccupied Moscow, where they were drafted to perform war-related duties, to help them receive German reparations on the grounds that Jews were "at double risk" as innocent civilians and Jews during the war. The Conference's recent behavior in blocking claims, says Solodkin, reflects a "creeping delegitimization" of the Soviet Jewish Holocaust narrative. She acknowledges that survivors of the Nazi occupied territories and refugees have "incomparably" different experiences, and that reparations should be commensurate with suffering, but repeats several times that unlike other civilians, all the Jews in the Soviet Union "were under death sentence during World War II and should therefore be compensated." Solodkin asserts that Israel's elderly reparation-entitled Soviet bloc immigrant community is made up of approximately 60,000 survivors and 80,000 refugees. Her own parents, she says, serve as examples: Her father, Michael Gershman, was a survivor; her mother, Alexandra, a refugee. Aged 17 at the time, Michael was in the Khelmnnik ghetto in Vinnitsa, Ukraine with his father, a weaver, in the first half of 1942. The men eventually managed to escape and lived under assumed identities; Michael later joined the Red Army. Alexandra fled to safety from Kamenets-Podolsky, a region in the Ukraine, to safety in the eastern republic of Kyrgyzstan. At the end of August 1941, the Germans killed some 23,000 Jews in Kamenets-Podolsky in the first of many massacres of over 10,000 Jews at a time. Echoing Solodkin, former Yad Vashem chair Yitzhak Arad, a one-time Lithuanian partisan and Holocaust historian, takes a maximal view and regards the Soviet Jews as Nazi victims because "had they been apprehended, they would have been murdered." This view is also shared by Ze'ev Factor, a Lodz ghetto and Auschwitz survivor, who chairs the Holocaust Survivor Welfare Fund. "Every European Jew was living under a death sentence from Adolf Hitler," says Factor and those who got away "should not be punished" for having escaped. Factor has called on the Finance Ministry to include all FSU immigrants who were alive during the war in its Holocaust pension scheme. But many experts disagree. Ben-Gurion University historian Shimon Redlich, a survivor himself, says he feels uncomfortable measuring "gradations of suffering," adding that the argument which makes "Holocaust survivors" of all immigrants displaced by the war, including those not under German occupation, could just as easily be applied to European Jews who fled to England or Palestine. These refugees and Jews from non-occupied territories "must have their suffering acknowledged" and receive some form of compensation for their losses, he says, but notes that "factually, you can't compare an Auschwitz survivor with someone who landed up in Tashkent and went to school." Michael Beizer, a former aliya movement activist from Leningrad, who is today a Hebrew University historian and works with the American Joint Distribution Committee in the Former Soviet Union, says there is confusion because of the growing number of poor elderly FSU immigrants trying to fit into the narrowly defined "Holocaust survivor" category. On the one hand, he says, German and Israeli funds are available for "needy Holocaust survivors;" on the other, many poor, elderly FSU immigrants, not classified as such, need financial assistance and are trying to qualify. He adds that firm documentation on Jews in the FSU both before and after the Second World War is hard to come by because Jews, fearing Soviet anti-Semitism, often concealed their identity. He notes that various groups with operations in the FSU, such as Chabad-Lubavitch, are interested in inflating the number of survivors, which paradoxically gives fuel to Holocaust deniers. "If there are so many survivors, they must have killed fewer Jews," the deniers might say. Beizer suggests changing the criteria so that indigent, elderly FSU victims of German aggression and Soviet tyranny can qualify for financial assistance and not necessarily have to be tethered to a specific Holocaust narrative. Bolstering that argument, Dr. Maya Weiner, a 76-year-old retired pediatrician from Kiev and plaintiff in the Tel Aviv District Court lawsuit, who came here in 1990, says that the extent to which the war decimated Soviet Jewish families and particularly killed off its men (either by Nazi execution or as Red Army soldiers in battle) warrants acknowledgment and compensation. Weiner fled Kiev as a 9-year-old with her mother amid bombardments and never again saw her father, a Red Army soldier who died in battle as did his two soldier brothers. Weiner and her mother reached Kazakhstan where she attended school, but nearly all her relatives who remained in Kiev were murdered. Only recently, when her granddaughter in Israel married a third-generation Sabra and she met his large extended family, did Weiner realize "what we lost. I have practically no relatives." But despite the torments and tragedies endured by Maya Weiner and Rochla Trachtman, they were among the lucky ones. The widespread killings of Jews, often whole communities, began shortly after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet bloc territories in June 1941. Almost all Jews who hadn't escaped the German-occupied areas were shot, starved, or tortured to death in a speedy "holocaust of bullets." They were buried in forests and ravines near their communities - massacre sites which are still in the process of being identified and commemorated. After the war, some 250,000 out of the 300,000 Jews from the annexed Soviet territories who had found sanctuary from the Nazis deep in the Soviet Union were repatriated to their homelands, such as Poland. From there, they mostly left to German DP camps, en route to Palestine or the United States. But some 2.25 million Jews remained trapped in the Soviet Union and endured many more grim years of totalitarianism and anti-Semitism. On top of this, the Soviets downplayed the Nazi's genocidal war against Jews both during and after the war, historian Beizer observes. At first they were wary of arousing local anti-Semitic sentiment by spreading the impression that Red Army soldiers were dying for the Jews. Despite the heroic contribution of Red Army Jewish soldiers, many Soviet civilians encountered large groups of Jewish refugees in the non-occupied areas who had escaped the killing and their presence could easily have been misconstrued as cowardice, Beizer notes. After the war, he continues, the suppression of Jewish losses reflected the regime's dark pragmatic and anti-Semitic sides. Reluctant to antagonize the local population, the Kremlin often did not allow Jews to return to their homes after the war and reclaim their stolen property. Later, it banned singling out Jewish killings because it tapped into feelings of Jewish nationalism stirred by the emerging Jewish state. Mention of the Jewish Holocaust was only to appear in the official Yiddish newspaper Eynikayt. Beizer points out that until the early 1960s Babi Yar, the infamous ravine outside Kiev where Germans, Ukrainians and collaborators of other nationalities massacred an estimated 100,000 people, mostly Jews, and which came to emblemize Nazi atrocities, had only a Yiddish plaque to identify it as the site of the mass murder of Jews, while the Russian plaque said only that "peace-loving Soviet citizens" were massacred there. This non-recognition of murdered Jews led to protests and arrests and caused poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko to rebuke the regime in his famous 1961 poem, "Babi Yar" (though a later version did not contain the criticism). Nor was the sensational 1961 capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann, whose charges in the Jerusalem District Court included the execution of untold Soviet Jews, major news in the USSR, which paradoxically had played "a serious" role in bringing Nazi war criminals to trial, says Nazi hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff. Soviet media did not publicly report on the trial, which played a key role in promoting Holocaust awareness worldwide, and few Soviet Jews knew it was going on. "I didn't hear about it till the 1970s," recalls veteran Prisoner of Zion Iosif Begun. The late Nehemia Levanon, head of Nativ-Bar, the clandestine organization known formally as the Liaison Bureau (Lishkat Hakesher), was in Moscow at the time. He writes in his Hebrew language memoir, "Nativ Was the Code Name," (Am Oved 1995) that despite a flurry of interest, the Soviet regime ultimately used the Eichmann trial to bash Israel, saying it was being "orchestrated to showcase Nazi crimes against Jews only" with the aim of stirring Jewish nationalism and support for Israel. The regime's attitudes toward Jewish suffering is clearly reflected in the way it handled "The Black Book," an authoritative collection of eye-witness testimonies of Nazi and collaborator atrocities against the Jewish population in Soviet lands. Compiled by writer Ilya Ehrenburg and war correspondent Vasily Grossman, both Soviet Jews, it was never published in the Soviet Union and the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC), which promoted the project, came to a tragic end. In 1946, excerpts of the Black Book reached the United States and were published privately by a group, which included the World Jewish Congress. This led the Soviet regime to put members of the JAC on trial for "falsifying history" and "bourgeois nationalism" for ignoring the suffering of non-Jews during the war. In 1947, prominent actor Solomon Mikhoels, chairman of JAC, was murdered in Minsk on Stalin's personal orders, and later, 13 JAC defendants were executed. Translations of "The Black Book" began to appear in various languages, including German, in the mid-1990s and it has recently been re-issued in English as "The Unknown Black Book," edited by Joshua Rubenstein, northeast regional director of Amnesty International USA and Dr. Ilya Altman, co-chair of the Russian Research and Educational Holocaust Center in Moscow (Indiana University Press with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2008). "The Black Book" contains page after page of accounts of horror. One woman witness-survivor from Kiev writes to "Comrade" Ehrenburg in 1945 about the massacre at Babi Yar: "They went along like a wave. Young people, old people, women, men and children of all ages. The ditches had been prepared ahead of time They shot them with machine guns. They took the children aside and bayoneted them, tore newborns in half. There weren't enough ditches, so they blew up the earth with land mines, at the same time burying Jews alive. The ground shook from the movement of people in one ditch. Howls, cries, wails, prayers. And the piercing shrieks of children. Young people fought with the executioners, shouting, 'The people will avenge us.' Before killing them, they still had time to rape the women. Some Jews did not go to Babi Yar; they committed suicide. This is how one of our pupils, Riva Khazan, in the fifth grade went to her death. Mother and daughter poured kerosene on themselves and set themselves on fire." Solodkin hopes that as the Soviet Holocaust narrative will become more widely known, and as the public comes to better understand what her parents' generation endured, attitudes about paying reparations to those who escaped, will soften. Seventy-one year old Eva Manov shares Solodkin's hope. The last time she saw her father, Ya'akov, was as a 4-year-old when he bought her a pair of red patent leather shoes. That was in Kiev on the eve of the German invasion of Soviet Ukraine in 1941. "I was so proud of those shoes," Manov recalls with a rare smile, seated in her tiny Jerusalem apartment. Ya'akov joined the Red Army with his two brothers and was never heard of again. Eva, age 4, her mother and 7-year-old sister fled to Siberia, where crushing poverty, freezing cold and starvation gave the sisters life-long health problems. Today Manov, who immigrated here in 1990 with her late husband and invalid daughter, can barely walk and wears supportive metal braces on her legs. She is angered by the suggestion that she is not a Holocaust survivor, and feels she is entitled to a special pension. "It's simple," she says. "If we hadn't fled Kiev, we would have landed up in Babi Yar." • Reparation Remedies Seventy-four-year-old Maya Gershgorin from Haifa survived World War II and the Holocaust by escaping with her mother and sister to the Ural Mountains, deep inside the Soviet Union, before the Germans conquered her native Ukraine in 1941. She immigrated to Israel in 1990. Gershgorin was one of the plaintiffs in the 6-year Tel Aviv District Court case known as Mariana Rodshtein and 1,914 others v. the Claims Conference, in which she and others with similar narratives claimed that the Conference had withheld Holocaust reparations from them illegally. In early June, the Court found in favor of 1,365 of the plaintiffs and ordered the Conference to pay up, to the tune of 10,000 shekels ($3,000) each, plus interest. Gershgorin described to The Jerusalem Report how the Conference blocked the elderly immigrants from receiving payments from the German government's Hardship Fund, set up in 1980 to compensate Eastern European Jews who fled the advancing Nazis to the Soviet Union during the war. According to Fund criteria, Gershgorin says, needy immigrants under the age of 60 had to prove 80 percent health disability to qualify for the DM 5,000 (which equals 2,600 euro or $4,380 as of late June ) payment. Most of the plaintiffs failed to meet the criteria and were turned down. Yet Gershgorin (whose application in the early 1990s just before her 60th birthday was rejected because she could not prove 80 percent disability) says that at the time, neither she nor others were worried because the health clause was waived for those older than 60, and they thought they would simply reapply when they reached that age. But they then discovered that individuals could only apply once to the Hardship Fund. Had the Conference warned immigrants to simply apply after turning 60 when the health disability was no longer relevant, "most would have done so," Gershgorin contends. "Why would a Jewish organization, whose job it is to pay German claims, do this to us?" she asks. The same question troubled Knesset Member Marina Solodkin, who says that she implored Conference functionaries not to fight and just admit that "a mistake had been made." But nothing budged them, she says. So she helped organize the appeal to the District Court. Judge Oded Mudrick accepted the Conference's argument that the statute of limitations had run out on the claims of the 550 plaintiffs who had joined the lawsuit seven or more years after their applications for Hardship Fund monies were rejected. But he ruled in favor of the 1,365 others and ordered the Conference to pay out 13,650,000 shekels plus interest, an award, which plaintiff attorney Yoram Sheftel estimates will tally up to 20,000,000 shekels (about $6 million). Sheftel called the rejection of the applications of 550 plaintiffs "scandalous" and pressed Conference lawyers to publicly commit to not appeal Mudrick's ruling, and to also compensate the 550 rejected plaintiffs. At a stormy hearing held by the Knesset Committee on Immigration and Absorption on the case and the ruling on June 17, chairman Michael Nudelman (Likud) repeatedly threatened to use "heavy legislative equipment" to bring the Conference under Israeli government scrutiny unless the organization promised to not appeal the decision, to drop its rejection of the applications of the remaining 550 plaintiffs and to start paying claims within 20 days. Reuven Merhav, former director general of the Foreign Ministry and the non-salaried head of the Israel section of the Conference indicated that it would probably not file an appeal but said he was unsure how it would pay the court award since its funds were committed to other projects. Meanwhile, two separate Knesset initiatives to investigate the Conference took place in mid-June: State Control Committee chair MK Zevulun Orlev (National Unity-National Religious Party) called for the State Comptroller's office to launch a probe into the Conference (it agreed to do so). Several days later, independently, MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor), called for the Knesset plenum to vote to set up a state Commission of Inquiry, which would examine the behavior of the Conference. (A Knesset insider, familiar with the issue, critiqued Pines-Paz's initiative as "headline-grabbing and extraneous," and one which will cause "duplication of work.") In an e-mail to The Jerusalem Report, New York-based Claims Conference spokeswoman Hillary Kessler-Godin said the German government had set the rigid Hardship Fund criteria and that the Conference was "bound to follow its direction in implementation of the program." She also pointed out that until 1980, the West Germans refused to pay compensation to Holocaust survivors living behind the Iron Curtain. The establishment of the Hardship Fund both addressed the needs of the Jews who trickled out of those areas beginning in the 1960s and 70s, and included liberalized criteria (encompassing Jews who fled the Nazis to non-occupied areas). Both points, she said, were "major achievements" for the Conference. She noted that the fund has paid out $852 million to over 300,000 Jews. In a related development, a State Commission of Inquiry set up in January to examine Israel's payment of Holocaust reparations to survivors since the Second World War submitted its report in late June. Headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, the Commission concluded that survivors had received only 38 billion shekels of a global settlement of over 61 billion shekels (today's valuation) that the West German government granted the State of Israel in 1952, principally for the welfare of some 500,000 survivors with varying degrees of disability. The rest was used for "collective" state-building purposes. Under the global settlement, Jews who moved to Israel after 1953 could no longer file claims for German reparations, creating decades of bitterness because German pensions paid to Israeli and non-Israeli survivors in Western countries were (and are) considerably higher. Dorner's report said that the state never bothered to return the sum it "borrowed" from survivors and ignored a Supreme Court decision handed down 12 years ago that ordered the government to equalize Israeli Holocaust pensions with German ones. The state had been derelict in its fiduciary obligation to survivors because it was distracted by state-building issues and had not acted in an intentionally devious manner, the report said. Theoretically, between 1.3 million and 2.2 million shekels were due to each survivor, many of whom are no longer alive. The Dorner Commission did not recommend paying full value to those still alive or liberalizing criteria and paying pensions to Soviet bloc immigrants who did not live under German occupation. Rather it recommended what it considered a solution, "which could be easily absorbed" by the national budget: an increase of several hundred shekels per month to the special pensions received by some 43,000 survivors, and a one-time, lump sum payment of 3,900 shekels to each of them. This would cost state coffers an annual 262 million shekels, a sum which would gradually shrink as survivors passed on, but provide a buffer to poverty in their lifetimes. Dorner told The Report that she feared public apathy plus the government's lack of motivation to pay could render her report being relegated to the "shelves, gathering dust. I hope the media does its part to get the story out," she said. The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement that it was reviewing the Dorner Commission report. N.C.G. Cover story in Issue 7, July 21, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.