Making amends to survivors

Holocaust survivor Miriam Kleinman can still remember the diamond earrings her sister wore in Hungary.The glittering stones were stolen by Hungary’s Nazi regime and her older sibling was killed at Auschwitz, a place Kleinman survived.

Six decades later, the 78-year-old Williamsburg widow is getting a token for those earrings – help from a local social services agency for the poor.

“I wish they could give me my family back,” said Kleinman.

Four groups have begun distributing $550,000 a year for five years to more than 6,000 city survivors of Hungarian Nazi atrocities – 4,000 live in Brooklyn.

The money is part of a $25.5 million settlement paid by the U.S. government in the Hungarian Gold Train case in which U.S. forces intercepted a train in 1945 with 24 freight cars of gold, jewelry, art, china and Oriental rugs – worth an estimated $200million.

“It’s wrong that for so many years our government did not want to recognize their obligations,” said Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg.

All of the family heirlooms carried onto that train have been lost. Many were stolen by American soldiers, U.S. government officials have said. The rest were sold in 1948. The proceeds went to resettle Jewish refugees of the war.

“The police came and told us to leave, and then they took everything,” said Kleinman, whose family owned a a grocery store and a tobacco factory.

Bepi Frankel was taken to Auschwitz in 1944 when she was 15. Of nine siblings, she was the only survivor.

“My mother had beautiful jewelry, and they took everything,” she said of the Nazis. Frankel, 77, said she tried to get restitution after the war from the U.S. government, but got no response.

A settlement in the class-action suit against the government was approved last fall – and the government apologized to the victims.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn/Queens), who worked to get the government to negotiate a settlement, said the case was the first in which the government has agreed to compensate Holocaust survivors.

The money is being distributed through 17 national Jewish social services agencies where 12,000 Hungarian survivors live.