Tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors living here in poverty

This year's report emphasizes the steadily increasing mortality rate of survivors.

An elderly woman. [illustrative] (photo credit: REUTERS)
An elderly woman. [illustrative]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Forty-five thousand Holocaust survivors in Israel are living below the poverty line, the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel claimed on Monday during the release of its annual report.
The financial situation of many of Israel’s approximately 189,000 survivors is untenable, the report concluded, asserting that an increasing number of these elderly citizens are forced to choose between food or medicine – with 1 in 5 having to make that choice last year.
Four out of 10 survivors have found that their finances do “not allow them to live in dignity,” while two-thirds indicated that they are “very or fairly troubled” over their financial future, an increase of 7 percent over 2014.
Twenty-seven percent of survivors indicated that they were unable to afford to heat their homes over the winter and nearly three-quarters said they suffer from various health problems.
One fifth of survivors stated that they feel unsafe in their homes, while 45% indicated they that experience frequent loneliness despite six-out-of-10 meeting with family members weekly.
Around two-thirds of Israel’s survivors, the average age of whom is 83, are women, more than a third of who “live alone and have to get by on their own.”
Four out of 10 children and grandchildren of survivors have to offer them financial help and just under three-quarters of Israelis say that “the state does not deal well with Holocaust survivors.” Fifty-four percent of Israelis were unhappy with the way in which the state deals with their relatives who are survivors, although attitudes among the general public regarding the government’s efforts in this regard have been improving.
Just under half of survivors are afraid that another Holocaust could happen, while 46% of the general public share the same concern, up from 5% over last year.
One year ago the cabinet approved a plan to increase the funding allocated to Holocaust survivors by NIS 1 billion annually, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stating that it is Israel’s “moral obligation to ensure that Holocaust survivors among us will live the rest of their lives with respect and blessings.”
Forty-nine percent of survivors believe that elderly citizens who did not pass through the Nazi inferno should also be eligible for the same level of aid that they receive.
In December, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany announced that it would increase its 2015 allocation to social service organizations tending to elderly survivors by 21% over 2014.
Approximately NIS 400 m. was set to be allocated to Israeli survivors.
According to the Claims Conference, the funds come from increased German restitution payments as well as private foundations, the Austrian government, and a settlement with Swiss banks.
According to Monday’s report, 82% of survivors are aware of their rights regarding government assistance, up from 75% in 2014.
“The fund considers the next five years as years of last effort to allow Holocaust survivors – not to die with dignity, but to live with dignity... It is the mandate of the fund and it is our challenge,” said foundation chairman and former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Avi Dichter.
While funding from the government and the Claims Conference is critical to his organization’s efforts to aid survivors, Dichter reiterated previous calls for private donations, asserting that his organization will “continue to fight with all the means at its disposal” for survivors.

Lidar Gravé-Lazi contributed to this report.