NGOs demand German Shoah group pay victims

Foundation accused of misusing 20,000 euros to fund programs that delegitimize the Jewish state.

cartoon of Israel and Palestinian schools (photo credit: Courtesy)
cartoon of Israel and Palestinian schools
(photo credit: Courtesy)
BERLIN – A German foundation called EVZ, set up to compensate slave workers during the Holocaust and fight contemporary anti- Semitism, is being taken to task by Israeli, US, and German NGOs for its failure to remedy its reported misuse of public funds to support anti- Israel activities.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that “It is very troubling that the Remembrance Responsibility Future (EVZ) Foundation has not provided specific steps to compensate victims of the Nazis and educate about the horrors of the regime.
“Instead of fulfilling this goal and combating anti- Semitism – both part of the Foundation’s mandate – EVZ has funded German and Arab student programs that present distorted views of the Arab-Israeli conflict, compare Israeli policies to those of previous, repressive German governments, and developed student materials with anti-Semitic images and texts,” added Steinberg.
NGO Monitor, a prominent watchdog organization, has exposed over the years European NGOs who misappropriated public funds to undercut Israel’s legitimacy as a state. According to NGO Monitor, the group closely monitors the work of European NGOs and their misallocation of funds “to promote the Palestinian narrative, and not for peace-building measures based on mutual understanding.”
The EVZ was founded in 2000 with a contribution of 5 billion euros by the Federal German government and German industry to compensate former slave and forced laborers during the Nazi period. A segment of the EVZ funds are designed to finance educational projects.
Steinberg told the Post that “The EVZ misused 20,000 euros to fund programs that actually contribute to the delegitimization of Israel. This information has been presented to EVZ, and yet the Foundation refuses to say how it will remedy the situation. The German government, which funds EVZ, should immediately cease funding and stop all operations until a complete evaluation of committee members, funding mechanisms and programming is complete.”
The Post reported last week that EVZ used German-taxpayer funds to publish school booklets depicting Israel as a violent state that discriminates against Israeli- Arab pupils. The school brochures equate Israel with the former communist East German state and assert that Palestinians and Germans are both victims.
The Nazi regime, historians say, frequently invoked the anti-Semitic argument that Germans were the victims of Jewish plots.
Multiple Post e-mail queries to the chairman of the EVZ, Dr. Martin Salm, and the EVZ spokesman, Dietrich Wolf Fenner, were not returned in connection with whether the misused funds for anti-Israeli activities will be returned.
The EVZ refused to answer additional Post queries about criticisms last week from the European Jewish Congress, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the American Jewish Committee. The EVZ told the Post last week that the foundation plans to review their programs.
The Berlin-based office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) urged the EVZ last week to “review its human-rights program guidelines and create targeted programming to combat anti-Semitism and contribute to a balanced understanding of modern Israel.”
“A foundation that was initiated by the German government and industry to honor the lives of millions of Nazi slave and forced laborers should give priority to initiatives that promote good relations with Israel and fight modern forms of anti- Semitism,” said Deidre Berger, director of AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German- Jewish Relations.
Berger added that “Unfortunately, programs combating anti-Semitism constitute an extremely small part of the foundation’s annual program. And some programs, reflecting a skewed humanrights agenda, may do more harm than good.”
Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s director of International Jewish Affairs, is a member of the EVZ Board of Trustees.
“I fully expect that there will be a thorough discussion about this when the board meets in December. The reputation of the EVZ Stiftung hangs in the balance.” said Baker.
“The German government must assert its role on the EVZ Board of Trustees,” said Anne Herzberg, an NGO Monitor legal adviser.
She added that “The time for excuses is over. The German government has a responsibility to fix this problem now. The educational damage done to students can be reversed by teaching them about the true values of human rights, tolerance, and the realities of anti-Semitism. Most importantly, the government needs to direct funding to survivors, as it was initially intended.”
Sacha Stawski, head of the German watchdog organization Honestly Concerned, which monitors anti-Semitism in the German media, told the Post on Sunday that “Sadly, though, Dr. Salm, someone who has been working for an institution, which sets its goal on ‘remembrance,’ ‘responsibility’ and ‘the future,’ for so many years, really has not understood a single thing about anti-Semitism when he then goes on to say that ‘he is absolutely sure that none of the caricatures are ‘anti-Semitically motivated.’”
Stawski, whose organization is slated to launch the largest pro-Israel European conference on October 23 in Frankfurt, added, “Wake up, Dr. Salm: It was your job to teach these youngsters not to be anti-Semites and yet, at the end of your project, they come out drawing hate-filled anti-Semitic caricatures. You failed. Your [publicly financed] project failed. And instead of admitting your mistake and admitting that there is a lot more work to be done, you tried to silence your critics.
“You should have know better and it is you, yourself, who has most certainly disqualified himself from being an expert on the German Interior Ministry’s Panel of anti-Semitism experts, let alone an educator for an institution like the EVZ.”
Salm, the head of the EVZ, is a member the German Federal government’s commission on anti-Semitism. The commission is expected to issue a report on efforts to combat anti-Semitism in early November.