Right to know truth about the Holocaust

These are excerpts from a letter sent by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation to South Florida’s congressional delegation last week.

On Nov. 25, Arthur Max, of the Associated Press, published an astonishing report about the massive and previously closed collection of information from Nazi death camps under the jurisdiction of the International Red Cross now located at Bad Arolsen, Germany. The scope of the records reported is breathtaking, as are the moral and policy implications of the revelation.

Fate of loved ones

South Florida is home to the second-largest concentration of Holocaust survivors in the United States and the third-largest in the world outside of Israel. According to Max’s report, survivors and their families have been unjustly denied access to many of the records at Bad Arolsen regarding their own experiences in the camps or those of their family members.

We are mandated by history and morality to remember that this greatest crime against humanity was, in fact, millions of crimes against millions of human beings, all of whom have the absolute right to receive all of the unvarnished truth about their fate and the fate of their loved ones.

We are also painfully aware that far too many examples exist of survivors and heirs of Holocaust victims who have attempted to obtain morally and legally justified restitution or compensation for horrific slave labor from the entities that profited from the Holocaust, only to be met with rejections, and then, as added insult, to be denied access to the sources of information they are told justify these rejections.

In addition, there is now abundant evidence that tens of thousands of destitute survivors live in our midst, in the United States and Canada, in Israel, in the former Soviet Union, in Europe and Australia, and in Latin America — and that government and community and restitution-based resources are inadequate to meet their basic human needs.

In the United States alone, there are more than 45,000 Holocaust survivors living near or below the federal poverty level who cannot afford adequate nutrition, housing, home care, medications, or necessary devices such as dentures, eyeglasses, or hearing aids. This is unthinkable in 2006.

As leaders of our general and Jewish communities, locally and nationally and even internationally, the Federation Board believes that our generation owes the survivors the dignity of justice in their final years.

Help survivors, heirs

In light of these compelling facts, we call upon Congress to take all steps necessary to guarantee immediate access to the Bad Arolsen archive by a qualified group of researchers to create a comprehensive and accessible database of information for all affected families. As a starting point, we urge you to bring together the responsible U.S. and Red Cross officials to determine the scope of the task and identify the personnel and resources to make this information accessible as soon as humanly possible. If necessary, we are asking that Congress enact legislation, with funding, for the immediate completion of these tasks.

We ask Congress to explore and encourage any and all methods to provide survivors and heirs a full opportunity to access the Bad Arolsen materials and to utilize said materials in support of their claims without regard to any previous denials or deadlines.