Claims Conference debates use of reparations

Some survivor groups, critics say money should be given exclusively to elderly survivors, the youngest of whom are in their 80s.

Holocaust survivor 311 (photo credit: Etti Cohen)
Holocaust survivor 311
(photo credit: Etti Cohen)
Should reparations money given by the German government to Holocaust survivors be used to build medical facilities and fund education? A committee set up by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, better known as the Claims Conference, is reviewing the organization’s funding policy, which has drawn the ire of some survivor groups and critics.
The probe, chaired by Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee and consisting of members of various Jewish organizations, met for its first session on February 2 in New York and is expected to submit its report in July.
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Opinions regarding the allocation of money toward building hospital wings in Israel and educational purposes varied among board members at the meeting, according to sources.
Some argued that reparations money should be given exclusively to elderly survivors, the youngest of whom are well into their 80s. Others said investing some of the funds – between $6 million and $8m. per year out of a budget of $272m. in 2011 – in hospitals was “proportional” and benefited many ailing victims of the Nazis.
The Claims Conference on Monday said its 2011 budget, which comes chiefly from the German government but from various other sources as well, represented a substantial increase from 2010, when it paid out $208m., and 2009, when it distributed $170m.
In addition, the Claims Conference allocates approximately $18m. per year for Shoah education, documentation and research.
The board’s meeting was attended by most of its members, with the exception of three Israel-based delegates, Noach Flug and Zeev Factor, both from the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, and Uri Chanoch, chairman of the Holocaust Survivors Association, who cited “personal reasons” for their absence, and Jewish Agency chairman Nathan Sharansky whose his flight was canceled. The next meeting will be held in Jerusalem.