Germany approves 91m. euro for Holocaust survivors

“We have taken the assets of 1,000 years of Jewish life which was destroyed in 12 years” to cover the “social welfare needs of Nazi victims.”

BERLIN –  The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany – known as the Claims Conference – met in Berlin on Wednesday and managed to obtain a total of 91 million euro during its annual negotiating session with the German Finance Ministry.
Gregory J. Schneider, the Executive Vice President of the Claims Conference, told The Jerusalem Post that the key goals of this year’s talks were to secure increased home care services and pension payments to enable survivors of the Holocaust to live in dignity.
Those twin goals of additional home care and pension payments were reached late Wednesday evening as the negotiators nailed 55m. euro to cover home services, a 25m. euro increase when compared to the 30m. euros in 2009.
In addition, a newly won pension entitlement of 36m. euro applies to roughly 1,300 Western European Shoah survivors.
Schneider, who has worked for the Claims Conference for 15 years, took over the reins as its new Executive Director six months ago. He has a master degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy school of government and a second master’s in Jewish communal service from Brandeis University.
“You have elderly, poor survivors who are isolated and in failing health,” said Schneider as he explained the pressing need to plug the gaps in social service care. The Claims Conference has funded levels of home care for a “significant number of the 100,000 survivors who are both poor and have some level of disability.” Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, Claims Conference Special Negotiator, said, “Today’s agreement is a major step forward in addressing vital social welfare needs for the poorest of Jewish Holocaust victims living around the world.
Much still remains to be done, including a multi-year agreement and continuing to enhance other benefits for survivors.” According to Schneider, the Claims Conference funds for home care services are shrinking because the sale of Jewish-owned property in East Germany has rapidly declined.
“We have taken the assets of 1,000 years of Jewish life which was destroyed in 12 years” to cover the “social welfare needs of Nazi victims,” said Schneider.
The Claims Conference has used proceeds from the sale of real estate in the former German Democratic Republic to “pay for home care” in the amount of $60m. a year. In Israel 16,000 survivors are recipients of home care services.
He stressed that survivors are in a critical phase because “until 2014home care needs will increase,” largely because survivors are aging andare afflicted by poor health.
Schneider said the Claims Conference sought an expungement of “timelimits” for survivor pensions. Survivors are only entitled to pensionpayments if they were imprisoned more than six months in aconcentration camp and beyond 18 months in a ghetto. “One day inAuschwitz is an eternity of a hellish nightmare, “said Schneider. TheGerman Finance Ministry agreed to review cases of special hardship andsurvivors should contact the Claims Conference.
Julius Berman, Chairman of the Claims Conference said that theorganization’s “ top priority is to continue obtaining funding toassist needy, vulnerable Jewish Holocaust victims in their final years.Aging Holocaust victims must know that the Claims Conference willassist them as long as needed.”