Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Holocaust survivors say State has stolen welfare funds

SURVIVORS of Nazi genocide who took refuge in the 'Jewish National Home' have found themselves swindled out of funds needed for their old age, by the very state that claimed international legitimacy by saying it was protecting them.

Horror at the Jewish fate in Europe was a major factor in the UN's November 1947 decision to partition Palestine, permitting the establishment of the State of Israel. Then in 1952 the new state accepted a Reparations agreement with West Germany, under which it was to receive 3 billion marks in goods and services from the Federal Republic over 14 years, being treated as heir for those plundered, exploited and killed, and carer for the survivors.

The deal was underwritten by the United States, and helped establish the West German state's respectability as it was re-armed and became a member of NATO.
For Israel, though the Reparations agreement was vociferously opposed by Left and Right on the streets and in the Knesset, it brought not just economic aid but strategic goods from West Germany.

For the Holocaust survivors, it has been different story. Not all have been like the Zabludowicz family who somehow did so well for themselves along with Israel's arms industry. Many have sought with difficulty to access funds left in Swiss banks or to obtain compensation from big German companies which exploited their slave labour. Survivors and refugees in Israel and the United States often kept going with work and children, only to find that in old age and retirement when traumas return to haunt them, they are also beset with bills for care and health treatment. And now here's the latest news from the Israeli online service YNet:

Holocaust survivors accuse State of stealing their welfare funds

Survivors promised $7.7 million in 2007, but records show they received only half that amount. Government offices vow they transferred full amount to Finance Ministry, which says survivors were only slated to receive $3.8 million
Yael Branovsky

The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel welcomed the government's pledge in 2006 to allocate an additional $7.7 million for Holocaust victims the following year. Two separate bodies were to contribute the much-needed funds, with the Prime Minister's Office and Yisrael Beitenu party each slated to give half the final amount.

But Ynet has learned that throughout the course of 2007 – only one payment of $3.8 million was received.

The funds were used mainly to cover medical expenses for thousands of needy Holocaust survivors living in Israel, said officials at the foundation, adding that with the full amount some 5,000 more requests for aid could have been authorized.

But both the PMO and Yisrael Beitenu claim they transferred the entire amount they had pledged to the Finance Ministry during 2007.

'It's a ruse to swindle Holocaust survivors'

Foundation Director Dubby Arbel told Ynet that his organization has no intention of settling for half the amount it was promised. "$3.8 million do not just vanish into thin air. Not only is the government trying to throw sand in the eyes of the Holocaust victims, it is committing a grave violation of trust and the foundation will keep fighting to make sure that the funds meant for the survivors will reach their intended destination. It is shameful that this sort of ruse would be employed against Holocaust survivors," he said.

"Only a certain kind of mind could come up with something like this," said foundation board member Shmuel Reinish of the Finance Ministry's apparent conduct.

The Finance Ministry said in response that according to the State's current budget terms, the foundation was only slated to receive $3.8 million. "This is it, the $3.8 million, this is what they were to receive and that money was transferred to the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel during the year of 2007," the ministry said.

'Thousands will be left without aid'

Meanwhile the foundation announced Sunday that it would no longer be able to provide an adequate response to the thousands of requests it receives from survivors if the government continues to dawdle.

One of the survivors who turned to the foundation for help is 80-year-old Tibor Pearl. "The government cannot fathom what we have been through. Today I am struggling just to survive, to buy medication and support my disabled son. And yet I am more worried about survivors who cannot even afford to heat their homes in the winter."

And what of the new funds allocated for Holocaust survivors in October? The Finance Ministry said the Knesset has yet to complete the necessary legislative procedures.


(Thanks to Shraga Elam, Tony Greenstein and Moshe Machover for drawing attention to this report).



As the official Holocaust memorial day approaches, the survivors, and what happens to them, should also be remembered.

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