Tuesday, April 17, 2007

[wvns] Holocaust Survivors Return to Germany

Documentary shows Israel worst place for Holocaust survivors to live
throughout Western world. Hundreds protest outside Knesset, demand
goverment help survivors with financial difficulties

Shoah survivors forced back to Germany due to Israel's lack of
restitution laws
Ines Ehrlich
Israel News


Holocaust survivors have left Israel to live out the rest of their
days in Germany due to the better conditions they receive there,
according to a documentary program broadcast Tuesday night by Israel's
Channel 2 television.

The documentary, Musar Shilumin (The Morals of Restitution) opened
with an elderly woman speaking from her comfortable home in Berlin to
two of Israel's best known docu-activists – Orly Vilnai Federbush and
Guy Meroz. The woman's fluent Hebrew was spoken with an unmistakable
German accent.

This Holocaust survivor had left Israel to return to Germany to
receive the free medication and monthly allowance provided to
survivors by the German government.

Contrary to Israel, the German government has stipulated that
Holocaust survivors in need of housing and medicine are entitled to
receive them free of charge. When asked what she thought of the
Israeli government's attitude towards Holocaust survivors, she said:
"I would not want what I think to appear in print."

Meanwhile, hundreds of people, including Holocaust survivors, college
students, and youth movement members, rallied outside the Knesset in
Jerusalem Monday, in protest of the dire financial situation many
Holocaust survivors have found themselves in.

The protestors began their march at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs'
and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. They called on the government to
help the survivors by transferring NIS 30 million to the Foundation
for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel.

The protest was organized by "Tafnit - A New Agenda for Israel", an
organization that aims at "bringing about a significant change in
Israel's national priorities toward the broad national consensus".

"Even on Holocaust Remembrance Day, it's not enough to remember those
who were killed, but also those that are with us here," said Tafnit
Chairman Uzi Dayan.

Years of delayed processing and neglect

The six-month investigative report took the two activists on a voyage
to New York, Berlin and Amsterdam to seek out the bureaucratically
withheld funds. They discovered a disappearing world, the world of
250,000 Holocaust survivors still alive today in Israel, of whom
80,000 live in dire poverty, while substantial funds are not being

The documentary pointed an accusing finger at the Israeli cabinet and
at the Claims Conference, the organization responsible for recovering
and distributing Jewish assets plundered by the Nazis. The Conference
is supposed to transfer restitution funds to Holocaust survivors but
for years has been withholding a sum of $300 million to $900 million,
depending on who is asked, due to various bureaucratic reasons.

As a consequence of this, despite being one of the wealthiest
foundations in the world, many survivors in poor health and living in
impoverished conditions will not live to receive their restitution

The documentary also criticized Israeli banks for withholding
Holocaust victims' funds, and also found fault with the JNF, the
Israel Museum and various other institutions still holding Holocaust
victims' properties.

Locked in her home

Depicting personal stories, the documentary showed another elderly
survivor called Esther who was initially interviewed at her home but
by the end of the documentary had moved to a senior citizens' home
after falling over and lying on the floor for hours until she was able
to get to the phone to seek help.

Her allowance totals NIS 1,800 (about $442) a month and she had lived
off her pension, often finding herself debating between the purchase
of food or medicine, telephone and electricity bills. She had not left
the house for four years because she needed help with her walker. She
did not lock the door lest she fell and could not be rescued, until a
burglar broke in and stole all the cash she had – a total of NIS 87
(about $21).

A nurse at the Abarbanel Mental Health Center spoke of survivors
admitting themselves into the institution just for the sake of a warm
bed and food. Sadly, they were later forcefully evicted.

The Lobby for Holocaust Survivors

The documentary covered a recent meeting held by the Lobby for
Holocaust Survivors to allow victims a platform on which to voice
their complaints. The lobby was founded by Knesset members Colette
Avital and Sara Marom Shalev, in an effort to improve the plight of
Holocaust survivors, as well as to promote legislation on the issue.

Numerous survivors spoke at the meeting, harshly criticizing Israel
for what they called its "ruthless, disrespectful policy" towards
them. "Does the country prefer the victims to die before they receive
the funds they deserve?" Avital asked.

By the end of six months of the docu-activists' activity to bring
about change, some $120,000 of restitution funds were transferred to
the needy – just enough for an ad-hoc allowance of NIS 1,500 per survivor.



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