US House of Representatives overwhelmingly backs resolution calling on Germany to increase aid to Holocaust survivors

holocaust_survivorThe U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging Germany to increase funding for Holocaust survivors.

The nonbinding resolution, which passed by a vote of 363-0 on Tuesday, urges Germany to “ensure that every Holocaust victim receives all of the prescribed medical care, home care, mental health care, and other vital services necessary to live in dignity” and to provide “additional financial resources to address the unique needs of Holocaust victims.”

The resolution, initiated earlier this year by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., estimates the number of survivors worldwide at 500,000, with 100,000 in the United States, and tens of thousands living in poverty.

Holocaust survivors “shouldn’t have to worry about their medical, mental health or home care needs, but the assistance promised to them by Germany has been slow coming and inadequate to cover the full range of their unique needs,” Ros-Lehtinen told JTA in an email.

“Today, the House passed my resolution urging Germany to honor its promises and obligations to all survivors so that they can live out their final years in the dignity and comfort they deserve,” she said. “Now Germany needs to do the right thing and show its leadership by resolving this directly and without delay.”

In her remarks on the House floor, Ros-Lehtinen decried what she depicted as the inadequacy of existing mechanisms in delivering assistance to survivors, singling out for criticism the Claims Conference, the body charged with negotiating claims with Germany and delivering assistance to survivors.

“The current system is broken and full of fraud and corruption,” she said. “The Claims Conference has failed survivors, placing caps on assistance and adding unnecessary burdens on those in dire need of assistance.”

The Claims Conference would not comment on Ros-Lehtinen’s remarks, although an official told JTA that the conference distributed $800 million last year.

Greg Schneider, the Claims Conference executive vice president, praised passage of the resolution in an email to his board, although his statement notably did not name Ros-Lehtinen. It did name Deutch, as well as the sponsors of a parallel Senate resolution still under consideration, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

“As you know, we are continuously talking with the government of Germany about the increasing unmet needs of aging Holocaust victims,” Schneider said. “This bill sends a clear message to Germany that increased home care and welfare services for survivors is a priority to the American people and Congress.”

The Claims Conference continues to deal with the aftereffects of revelations in 2010 that employees had defrauded the organization of at least $57 million.

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