German Jews insist on advance copy of Claims Conference probe results

German Jewy complain failure to provide copies of report doesn't allow for “sufficient time” to examine its conclusions.

Stephan Kramer 370 (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
Stephan Kramer 370
(photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
The Conference of Material Claims Against Germany has failed to provide members of its board copies of an internal ombudsman’s report examining how the organization’s leadership failed to prevent the theft of $57 million meant to aid holocaust survivors, a board member representing German Jewry has told The Jerusalem Post.
During a phone interview on Sunday, Stephan Kramer, the secretary-general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, lamented that he has not been able to examine the report by ombudsman Shmuel Hollander prior to the Claims Conference’s upcoming July 9 board meeting.
The central council has two seats on the board of the Claims Conference, of which Kramer occupies one.
The councilman said the failure to provide copies of the report early enough, to give board members “sufficient time” to examine its conclusions has left him with a “bad taste” in his mouth.
“Maybe they want to give it to us just [before] the meeting or during the meeting in a hard copy and then we may not even have enough time to read [it],” he said.
With his statements, Kramer has become the first member of the board to publicly criticize the Claims Conference.
Earlier critiques, including those of Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, were written in direct letters to members of the board which were then leaked to the press.
In 2001, an anonymous tipoff letter resulted in an internal probe that failed to uncover would eventually turn out to be an almost sixty million dollar fraud scheme being orchestrated by Semen Domnitser, a Claims Conference employee. In May, Domnitser was found guilty of overseeing the scheme.
The letter was received by a conference official who investigated the matter without finding any evidence of wrongdoing. After the 2001 letter went public, a claims conference spokeswoman placed responsibility for not investigating further on the official, who died in 2004.
However, the JTA subsequently reported that a paralegal working for the law firm of then-board member and pro bono counsel Julius Berman launched a second investigation, which also terminated without uncovering the fraud.
Berman became the chairman in 2002.
In May, Berman appointed board member Reuven Merhav to lead a Select Leadership Committee that would investigate the events surrounding the 2001 letter. However, this move was deemed insufficient by some board members.
Hollander was then tasked with examining the matter after several members of the board, representing major organizations such as the Jewish Agency and World Jewish Congress, called for an independent investigation.
Kramer also said that according to the meeting’s agenda, nominations for top executives by the board’s nominating committee will precede any discussion of the Hollander report.
“I’m a little concerned about the agenda,” he said. The report is “going to be discussed at the very end of the agenda which I think is not the appropriate way of dealing with this.”
Kramer said that on Monday he plans on sending a letter to other members of the board asking that the discussion of the report be moved up to the beginning of the meeting and that they be provided copies in advance of the meeting.
A critical discussion of the report, he said, must come before “we do the business as usual things of the board.”
Kramer also critiqued Berman, saying that he “is not doing himself a favor with putting the ombudsman’s report and the whole issue at the end.”
“I think we should know and discuss the ombudsman’s report and the incident and events that have taken place so far so that everybody is informed before we go into elections and reconfirmation on [Berman’s] position,” he said. “I think it is very important that we go into this confirmation process with all the facts; knowing them and having discussed them.”
The Claims Conference did not reply to a request for comment.