Compensation sought for 1948 Holocaust survivors

Head of Victims of Nazi Persecution Organization calls for Germany, Israel to compensate siblings of 400 soldiers.

Jews in 1948 (photo credit: Reuters)
Jews in 1948
(photo credit: Reuters)
The head of the Jerusalem based Victims of Nazi Persecution Organization called on Friday for the governments of Germany and Israel to compensate the siblings of more than 400 survivors of the Holocaust who fought and died during Israel’s War of Independence.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post Motke Wiesel, the group’s chairman, outlined the advocacy organization’s nearly yearlong campaign to raise awareness about the forgotten Shoah survivors.
Wiesel, born in 1929 in Romania and survivor of several concentration camps, including Auschwitz, said if the survivors had “parents and wives they would have gotten pensions.”
Wiesel, who experienced combat as a soldier in the 1948 War, sent letters to MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) and the head of the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, urging both to create a payment plan “to these Holocaust victims through their living siblings.”
According to Wiesel’s letter to Greg Schneider, the executive vice president of the claims conference, “about 2,000 Holocaust survivors were killed in Israel in the Independence War in 1948. More than 400 of them didn’t have parents, only siblings. According to the Israeli procedure these relatives don’t receive the compensation that parents were.”
The November 2011 letter continues “... these victims didn’t receive from Germany any compensation as Holocaust survivors.”
It is unclear if the German government intends to consider payment for the survivors.
Responding to Wiesel’s letter, Schneider, from the New Yorkbased claims conference, wrote, “You raise an interesting point, of which I was not aware.”
While not ruling out funds from the Finance Ministry to compensate siblings of the survivors, MK Zevulun Orlev wrote in a letter to Wiesel that there is currently “resistance” from that ministry. According to the letter from Orlev, the “Finance Ministry will create a situation where the majority of the votes in the ministerial committee on legislation will avoid getting a law that would allow this bid to proceed.”
Orlev also said that “Perhaps in the future it will be possible to check into this matter and whether there will be a change in this position by the Ministry of Finance.”
Wiesel said four people have expressed interest in compensation for their survivor siblings.
There are likely more than 400 people who lost their siblings in the War of Independence.
Wiesel’s list contains the fallen soldiers from Eastern Europe. Soldiers who are from Central and Western Europe still need to be identified and notices sent to any siblings.
Wiesel, who works with colleagues Zidon Zwi and Elijahu Schmid, said the victims’ organization started in the early 1950s in Israel. They help survivors deal with the complex bureaucratic paperwork.
Schmid, who speaks fluent German and was born on the border of Germany and Switzerland, told the Post that he drafts letters in German for agencies in the Federal Republic.
In a separate development at the group’s office on Shatz street in the city center, Steffi Fogel, a 90-year-old Auschwitz survivor, spoke to the Post. She gave her first public comments about her experience as a survivor of the Hitler movement.
Fogel grew up in town in Romania in the Transylvania region close to where Wiesel was born. In terms of her imprisonment in various concentration camps, she said she “had never talked about it... It is still in raging in my mind.”
Asked if she planned to tell her story to Yad Vashem and the Spielberg Shoah Foundation’s documentary center, she said she is not sure because she is “unable to get over” the time during the Holocaust.
She expressed anger “at the world” and the indifference of the international community who did not care that the Nazis sought to exterminate European Jewry.
Fluent in English, Yiddish, Hungarian, Hebrew, Italian, and Romanian, Fogel said her father was a Zionist and wanted to her to learn Hebrew as a young girl.
In May of 1944, the Nazis and their collaborators deported Fogel to Auschwitz. The approaching Soviet Army prompted the Nazis to force the prisoners on a death march in January of 1945. She marched along with other prisoners to the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück.
“How did we never cry?” said Fogel about her time in the camps. She said the first time she did cry was when a kapo turned to her and said “you’re laughing” and then slapped her in the face.
On May 2, 1945, Fogel walked out of the barracks of the Neutstadt concentration camp, finally free from Nazi captivity. She said she and “27 girls went to a nearby town and took a horse and carriage” and fled the area.
Fogel lived in Italy for 48 years and ran a jewelry import export business with her late husband. She came to Israel in 2004.Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated that Motke Wiesel was born in 1922. The correct year is 1929.