Award-winning author Henry Greenspan to visit Concordia, Dec. 4

Nov. 22, 2006 | Henry Greenspan is a psychologist and playwright at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and is the the author of On Listening to Holocaust Survivors: Recounting and Life History and, with Agi Rubin, Reflections: Auschwitz, Memory, and a Life Recreated.
MORE

More than 60 years on, details of the Holocaust keep unfolding

By Arthur Max / The Associated PressPublished: November 17, 2006

BAD AROLSEN, Germany: The 21- year-old Russian sat before a clerk of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate’s office, describing the furnaces at Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp where he had been a prisoner until a few weeks before.

“I saw with my own eyes how thousands of Jews were gassed daily and thrown by the hundreds into pits where Jews were burning,” he said.

“I saw how little children were killed with sticks and thrown into the fire,” he continued. Blood flowed in gutters, and “Jews were thrown in and died there;” more were taken off trucks and cast alive into the flames.

Today, the Holocaust is known in dense and painful detail. Yet the young Russian’s words leap off the faded, onionskin page with a rawness that transports the reader back to April 1945, when World War II was still raging and the world still knew little about gas chambers, genocide and the Final Solution.

The two pages of testimony, in a file randomly plucked off a shelf, are among millions of documents held by the International Tracing Service, or ITS, an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross

more.

Jpost: UK criminals learn from genocide survivors

By JONNY PAUL
LONDON

The testimonies of a Holocaust survivor and a survivor of the Rwandan genocide were the highlights of a law enforcement conference Tuesday in London.

The conference brought probation staff and voluntary agencies, who work with criminal offenders to help prevent recurring offenses and protect the public, together to discuss how they work with survivors of torture, genocide and hate.

The conference, entitled “Surviving Holocaust, Genocide and Post Traumatic Stress” was organized by London Probation, a law enforcement agency which is part of the UK Probation Service. Over 60 professionals from the participating agencies attended the conference.

The unique one-day event commemorated the survival of communities that have often arrived as refugees fleeing unimaginable horror and resettled in the UK.

MORE.

Plans for ´Beautiful´ Death Camps Anger Holocaust Survivors

10:48 Nov 13, ’06 / 22 Cheshvan 5767

(IsraelNN.com) Holocaust survivors in Israel are up in arms over a plan to make the memorial at the Auschitz-Birkenau death camps more aesthetic. The survivors fear the “improvements” will be more grandiose than the pleasant gardens at Dachau and Sachsenhausen.

The new director of the memorial, Dr. Piotr Cywinski, said he plans to replace the current exhibit with a more attractive one aimed at delivering an educational message against anti-Semitism and racism. Noah Flug, president of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, said, “We are opposed to the beautification of the site.”

KRISTALLNACHT, a remembrance in LA

By Daryl Temkin, Ph.D.

November 12, 2006

Last week was the anniversary of Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass, which was commemorated in Los Angeles with a lecture and ceremony at, of all places, a Catholic university, Loyola Marymount University. The audience consisted of an impressive and diverse mixture of Jesuit priests, Holocaust survivors, community members, Loyola faculty members, and a group of Jewish as well as non-Jewish university graduate students.

One of the many infamous milestones of the Holocaust years is named, The Night of Broken Glass. It occurred in Germany on November 9th, 1938. This was the night when Jewish life in Germany took another downward turn and hundreds of Jewish owned businesses, homes and places of worship were vandalized, destroyed and even burned to the ground.

Jews of Germany were shocked to watch and experience this radical change in German society. Jews were rapidly being dehumanized. They soon became regarded as non-citizens and social outcasts. Beyond all the ugly destruction that took place on Kristallnacht, there was an additional ugly occurrence. As the Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues were burning, the German firemen arrived on the scene but not for the purpose of putting out the fires. The German firemen stood by with all their fire equipment ready for action, but they did not attempt to save Jewish property. The German firemen were there to make sure that the fires would destroy only Jewish property.

On that night, Jews who never thought that cultured, well mannered, and sophisticated German citizens could possibly lower themselves to behavior far worse than animals were in the shock of disbelief. Suddenly, Jewish property, including books and Torah scrolls, became the enemy of the German people and were wantonly desecrated, burned, and destroyed.

The lessons learned on that evening of Kristallnacht were many — including that when people are lawfully permitted to act in a lawless fashion, no matter how refined they might have been, riotous animalistic behavior can suddenly be unleashed. This historic contemptible event showed that when laws controlling human behavior are withdrawn, the unimaginable may occur.

The Night of Broken Glass not only shattered thousands of windows, but it shattered thousands of souls. The rude awakening of what laid ahead came into focus on this night. The horror of the burning property and broken glass led to the horror of millions of lives being physically destroyed and millions of lives being emotionally scarred with nightmares and emotional trauma that would last for generations.

Currently, we are fortunate to still have some Holocaust survivors with us, but within the next decade the Holocaust will have to be understood and remembered only from books, films, and students of history. The personal testimony of this “unbelievable” event is diminished with the natural loss of each survivor.

Unbelievable events are perplexing. Events are unbelievable because they seem contrary to what is typically called “human nature.” Human nature is what we are accustomed to as being within a “normal range” of human behavior. Behavior beyond what is considered to be “normal” is considered “unbelievable”. When the “unbelievable” or “hard to believe” event is mixed with acts of extreme evil, the event can become beyond conceivability. If not conceivable, how can it be real?

Unbelievable behavior, if not supported and clearly witnessed, can easily be questioned and even dismissed for lack of credibility. After all, who wants to believe that humankind could possibly behave with such evil and cold heartedness? This is profoundly seen with the Holocaust denial literature that has been promulgated even while Holocaust survivors are still alive.

At last week’s Kristallnacht commemoration, a survivor of that horror-filled night shared his memories of the “unbelievable”. Although he was just a child at that time, his memories contained detailed clarity. He spoke about his German childhood friends who would play with him daily; and suddenly were no longer allowed to be his friends. Childhood relationships that had been filled with friendship, fun, and intrigue, became tainted overnight with brutal anti-Semitic name-calling and multiple acts of degradation and harassment.
Then, the survivor spoke about his memories of his father. He said that his father was a great lover of German life and culture. His father was an eternal optimist. And then the survivor said something that chilled many in the room. He said, “My father’s optimism made it impossible for him to deal with the signs of the time and to properly respond to the evil that was about to happen.”

This single sentence became the outstanding thought of the Kristallnacht commemoration. It was also stated that today’s world is not so different than the events of sixty and seventy years ago. Even though many German and European Jews felt safe and protected in their pre- Holocaust host countries, now, in hindsight, we see the many signs of impending danger that were missed or refused to be taken seriously. The Jewish belief in the goodness of humankind created a “limitless optimism” which included the belief that refined European culture could never allow the evil being discussed to become a reality.

Optimism can be an enormous strength in human character and behavior allowing for steadfastness and hope to overcome great challenges. However, optimism can also become a type of blindness. Optimism can prevent one from seeing grave dangers when the danger is real and imminent. Misplaced optimism or optimism without meaningful limits can delude persons from seeing the very thing that they need to see. This applies to major episodes of human evil where unlimited optimism can rationalize the evil intentions as being “just their way of thinking”.

Healthy optimism avoids the blindness wherein distinctions can no longer be made between good and evil, and when evil becomes “good” because blind optimism infers there can be no such thing as evil. In contrast, healthy optimism effectively recognizes an impending danger and identifies evil actions as well as evil plans.

In the case of an impending danger or evil plans, optimism can become a creative force to make new decisions and prevent potential catastrophe. Optimism in the face of potential catastrophe responds to the necessity to develop new choices for life to be preserved and for the catastrophe to be diminished or even extinguished.

At the present time in history, misplaced and misused optimism which blocks the ability to properly respond to an impending peril could jeopardize the entire future of humankind.

Kristallnacht shattered glass and shattered the optimistic illusion that “modern” humankind was immune to committing barbaric evil acts. Now, almost seventy years later, we realize that modern humankind is not so “modern” but is actually potentially more dangerous and more evil than the horrors of the Nazi era.

Over the past decades, blind optimism without limits has once again returned to many Jews and non-Jews thereby making it difficult to recognize evil, to respond to evil, yet alone to know when to resist evil. Now is the time when we need a realistic and healthy optimism to help us recognize new options to explore. This type of optimism will show that we have learned from Kristallnacht and that this time we hopefully will make the right decisions to preserve and protect the future of cultured, educated and civilized humankind.

_____________________________________________

Daryl Temkin, Ph.D. is the director of the Israel Education Institute which is devoted to teaching history and contemporary issues of Israel to Jews and Non-Jews throughout the world. He can be reached at DT@Israel-Institute.com.

This weekly column is published in Shalom LA, Israel- Jewish Life, and also appears in various North American and European publications, web magazines, and blogs. Requests for publishing this or other writings by Dr. Temkin can be sent to, Publishing@Israel-Institute.com.

For speaking engagements and lecture dates, contact: DarylTemkin@Israel-Institute.com.

For Membership and Donor Leadership to the Israel Institute, contact: Membership@Israel- Institute.com.

Dr. Temkin will be speaking on Sunday, November 19th at 11:00 A.M. in Los Angeles area for the San Fernando Valley Hadassah at 5450 Vesper Avenue, Van Nuys, CA. Lecture Topic: “Israel After Lebanon-Crisis and Hope” An analysis of Israel’s current circumstance and a presentation on seeing hope in crisis.

Daryl Temkin, Ph.D.
Israel Institute

——————————————————————————–

email: daryltemkinphd@gmail.com
phone: 310.508.0950
web: http://Israel-Institute.com

Forward email

This email was sent to friedmanj@aol.com, by daryltemkinphd@gmail.com
Update Profile/Email Address | Instant removal with SafeUnsubscribe™ | Privacy Policy. Powered by

Israel Institute | 1227 Smithwood Dr | Los Angeles | CA | 90035

—————–
Forwarded Message:
Subj: “Optimism and The Night of Broken Glass”
Date: 11/16/2006 4:10:11 A.M. Eastern Standard Time
From: daryltemkinphd@gmail.com
To: friedmanj@aol.com
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Optimistic Limits
By Daryl Temkin, Ph.D.

November 12, 2006

Last week was the anniversary of Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass, which was commemorated in Los Angeles with a lecture and ceremony at, of all places, a Catholic university, Loyola Marymount University. The audience consisted of an impressive and diverse mixture of Jesuit priests, Holocaust survivors, community members, Loyola faculty members, and a group of Jewish as well as non-Jewish university graduate students.

One of the many infamous milestones of the Holocaust years is named, The Night of Broken Glass. It occurred in Germany on November 9th, 1938. This was the night when Jewish life in Germany took another downward turn and hundreds of Jewish owned businesses, homes and places of worship were vandalized, destroyed and even burned to the ground.

Jews of Germany were shocked to watch and experience this radical change in German society. Jews were rapidly being dehumanized. They soon became regarded as non-citizens and social outcasts. Beyond all the ugly destruction that took place on Kristallnacht, there was an additional ugly occurrence. As the Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues were burning, the German firemen arrived on the scene but not for the purpose of putting out the fires. The German firemen stood by with all their fire equipment ready for action, but they did not attempt to save Jewish property. The German firemen were there to make sure that the fires would destroy only Jewish property.

On that night, Jews who never thought that cultured, well mannered, and sophisticated German citizens could possibly lower themselves to behavior far worse than animals were in the shock of disbelief. Suddenly, Jewish property, including books and Torah scrolls, became the enemy of the German people and were wantonly desecrated, burned, and destroyed.

The lessons learned on that evening of Kristallnacht were many — including that when people are lawfully permitted to act in a lawless fashion, no matter how refined they might have been, riotous animalistic behavior can suddenly be unleashed. This historic contemptible event showed that when laws controlling human behavior are withdrawn, the unimaginable may occur.

The Night of Broken Glass not only shattered thousands of windows, but it shattered thousands of souls. The rude awakening of what laid ahead came into focus on this night. The horror of the burning property and broken glass led to the horror of millions of lives being physically destroyed and millions of lives being emotionally scarred with nightmares and emotional trauma that would last for generations.

Currently, we are fortunate to still have some Holocaust survivors with us, but within the next decade the Holocaust will have to be understood and remembered only from books, films, and students of history. The personal testimony of this “unbelievable” event is diminished with the natural loss of each survivor.

Unbelievable events are perplexing. Events are unbelievable because they seem contrary to what is typically called “human nature.” Human nature is what we are accustomed to as being within a “normal range” of human behavior. Behavior beyond what is considered to be “normal” is considered “unbelievable”. When the “unbelievable” or “hard to believe” event is mixed with acts of extreme evil, the event can become beyond conceivability. If not conceivable, how can it be real?

Unbelievable behavior, if not supported and clearly witnessed, can easily be questioned and even dismissed for lack of credibility. After all, who wants to believe that humankind could possibly behave with such evil and cold heartedness? This is profoundly seen with the Holocaust denial literature that has been promulgated even while Holocaust survivors are still alive.

At last week’s Kristallnacht commemoration, a survivor of that horror-filled night shared his memories of the “unbelievable”. Although he was just a child at that time, his memories contained detailed clarity. He spoke about his German childhood friends who would play with him daily; and suddenly were no longer allowed to be his friends. Childhood relationships that had been filled with friendship, fun, and intrigue, became tainted overnight with brutal anti-Semitic name-calling and multiple acts of degradation and harassment.
Then, the survivor spoke about his memories of his father. He said that his father was a great lover of German life and culture. His father was an eternal optimist. And then the survivor said something that chilled many in the room. He said, “My father’s optimism made it impossible for him to deal with the signs of the time and to properly respond to the evil that was about to happen.”

This single sentence became the outstanding thought of the Kristallnacht commemoration. It was also stated that today’s world is not so different than the events of sixty and seventy years ago. Even though many German and European Jews felt safe and protected in their pre- Holocaust host countries, now, in hindsight, we see the many signs of impending danger that were missed or refused to be taken seriously. The Jewish belief in the goodness of humankind created a “limitless optimism” which included the belief that refined European culture could never allow the evil being discussed to become a reality.

Optimism can be an enormous strength in human character and behavior allowing for steadfastness and hope to overcome great challenges. However, optimism can also become a type of blindness. Optimism can prevent one from seeing grave dangers when the danger is real and imminent. Misplaced optimism or optimism without meaningful limits can delude persons from seeing the very thing that they need to see. This applies to major episodes of human evil where unlimited optimism can rationalize the evil intentions as being “just their way of thinking”.

Healthy optimism avoids the blindness wherein distinctions can no longer be made between good and evil, and when evil becomes “good” because blind optimism infers there can be no such thing as evil. In contrast, healthy optimism effectively recognizes an impending danger and identifies evil actions as well as evil plans.

In the case of an impending danger or evil plans, optimism can become a creative force to make new decisions and prevent potential catastrophe. Optimism in the face of potential catastrophe responds to the necessity to develop new choices for life to be preserved and for the catastrophe to be diminished or even extinguished.

At the present time in history, misplaced and misused optimism which blocks the ability to properly respond to an impending peril could jeopardize the entire future of humankind.

Kristallnacht shattered glass and shattered the optimistic illusion that “modern” humankind was immune to committing barbaric evil acts. Now, almost seventy years later, we realize that modern humankind is not so “modern” but is actually potentially more dangerous and more evil than the horrors of the Nazi era.

Over the past decades, blind optimism without limits has once again returned to many Jews and non-Jews thereby making it difficult to recognize evil, to respond to evil, yet alone to know when to resist evil. Now is the time when we need a realistic and healthy optimism to help us recognize new options to explore. This type of optimism will show that we have learned from Kristallnacht and that this time we hopefully will make the right decisions to preserve and protect the future of cultured, educated and civilized humankind.

_____________________________________________

Daryl Temkin, Ph.D. is the director of the Israel Education Institute which is devoted to teaching history and contemporary issues of Israel to Jews and Non-Jews throughout the world. He can be reached at DT@Israel-Institute.com.

This weekly column is published in Shalom LA, Israel- Jewish Life, and also appears in various North American and European publications, web magazines, and blogs. Requests for publishing this or other writings by Dr. Temkin can be sent to, Publishing@Israel-Institute.com.

For speaking engagements and lecture dates, contact: DarylTemkin@Israel-Institute.com.

For Membership and Donor Leadership to the Israel Institute, contact: Membership@Israel- Institute.com.

Dr. Temkin will be speaking on Sunday, November 19th at 11:00 A.M. in Los Angeles area for the San Fernando Valley Hadassah at 5450 Vesper Avenue, Van Nuys, CA. Lecture Topic: “Israel After Lebanon-Crisis and Hope” An analysis of Israel’s current circumstance and a presentation on seeing hope in crisis.

Daryl Temkin, Ph.D.
Israel Institute

——————————————————————————–

email: daryltemkinphd@gmail.com
phone: 310.508.0950
web: http://Israel-Institute.com

LA Jewish Journal: Many aging Shoah survivors are living a new nightmare

Many aging Shoah survivors are living a new nightmare

By Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Bella Zucker in her home in Hemet. Photo by Marc Ballon
Sammy Moscovitz sits alone in his drab one-room Los Angeles apartment watching cable TV and wondering how he ended up like this.

Like the frayed sweatshirt he wears, the 75-year-old Holocaust survivor looks tired and a bit rundown. He owns a bed, a dresser, a television, some clothing and little else. Racked with pain and plagued by various ailments, he points to five bottles of pills and complains that he sometimes rations them because of the high cost.

The Romanian-born Moscovitz has no children, and his wife died years ago. He has a caregiver, Candace Harbin, who is paid by the state to cook, clean and make meals for him 23 hours a week. That helps. Yet when she takes him out for coffee or a meal, Harbin says, Moscovitz sometimes wants to return home after just five minutes because of his pain.

Without medical insurance, Moscovitz lost his house 15 years ago, after a stroke and heart problems sent him to the hospital for an extended stay, which he paid for with his savings. On a recent day, he had $300 to his name, with outstanding debts of $180 and counting.

The phone rings. He debates whether to answer it. Chances are, Moscovitz says, it’s a bill collector. It’s always a bill collector these days. Against his better judgment, he picks up the receiver. A kind voice greets him and asks how he’s doing.

“Fine,” Moscovitz says, before quickly ending the call. “That was some Jewish group,” he says matter-of-factly in his rasp of a voice. “They want to see if I’m dead.”

Moscovitz is one of the tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors living in abject poverty in the United States. These witnesses to the 20th century’s worst atrocity are enduring a second nightmare, often struggling just to feed and clothe themselves.

Their wartime experiences, which included malnutrition and physical and psychological abuse, have made them prone to costly medical and mental problems as they age. Having depleted their savings or worked at low-paying jobs without pensions, they now largely subsist on government Social Security and disability checks, along with some assistance from Jewish organizations, and, if they are lucky, financial compensation from Germany and the other European countries that sent them to concentration camps, conscripted them into forced labor battalions and decimated their families.

An estimated 25 percent of the 122,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States live below the poverty line, according to a report issued in December 2003 by the United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella organization for the nation’s federations. Because the UJC based its findings on data from 2000-2001, many observers believe that the number of survivors has fallen to about 100,000. But with the typical victim approaching 80 and often spending much of his income on high-priced drugs and medical care, the poverty rate may now approach 33 percent.

In Los Angeles, which is home to some of the world’s wealthiest Jews, two Holocaust museums and affluent and heavily Jewish neighborhoods such as Brentwood and Bel Air, an estimated 3,000 of city’s 10,000 to 12,000 Holocaust victims live at or below the poverty line, according to Andrew Cushnir, vice president for planning for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Largely invisible to many in the community, impoverished survivors often exist at subsistence levels as shut-ins in aging apartments or in dilapidated homes they can no longer afford to repair. In many ways, they have become the forgotten people.

Which is not to say that some Jews haven’t stepped up to help after learning about their difficult circumstances. For example, after the publication of an article about Bet Tzedek’s work on behalf of Hungarian survivors, an anonymous donor gave the Jewish nonprofit legal aid society a much-needed gift of $100,000.

“That was a nice surprise,” Bet Tzedek Executive Director Mitchell Kamin said. But there have been too few nice surprises, experts say.

Area Jewish philanthropists “seem to have a strong desire to give money in remembrance of the Holocaust to a Holocaust museum, but are not as generous in helping the survivors themselves,” said Todd Morgan, former chairman of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and creator of the Morgan Aging With Dignity Fund, which pays for food, medicine and transportation for poor victims, among other needs.

Morgan, a money manager, said he started his $2 million fund five years ago after an indigent victim asked him for $400 for heart medication. Morgan approached several big donors, educated them about the struggles faced by many survivors and asked for contributions. He raised $200,000, much less than he expected. Morgan said he has never again tapped the Jewish community for survivor money.

To be sure, many Holocaust victims have flourished in America and have led productive, full lives. They have become doctors, lawyers, congressman and corporate titans. Still, many have suffered greatly, especially those who immigrated to the United States after 1965, according to the UJC report on Holocaust victims in America.

Survivors who came to the United States more recently, many of them from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, appear to have had a harder time acclimating, in part because of language problems. Whatever the reasons, on the whole, this population has more financial problems, as well as physical and mental health disabilities than survivors who came to America earlier, the study says.

Regardless of when they immigrated, many survivors grapple with indelible scars.

Based on more than 50 years of experience ministering to more than 100 Holocaust victims and their families, social worker Florabel Kinsler, formerly of Jewish Family Service (JFS) Los Angeles, estimates that about half of all victims are still experiencing, or have suffered from, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The mental and physical hell they endured during the war, she said, produced an abundance of corticosteroids in their bodies, which weakened their immune systems and has made them susceptible to lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s Disease, a stomach disorder. Many of those survivors’ children have also inherited a form of PTSD and might suffer from similar afflictions, Kinsler added.

Survivors with PTSD often have nightmares, become easily disturbed by loud noises, have difficulty keeping their emotions in check and tend to be controlling, a quality that often causes heightened friction between them and their offspring.

“Survivors often lack the physical and emotional glue to keep going,” Kinsler said.

To help address their growing needs, several local Jewish agencies have, for years, offered survivors an array of services. Now, executives from The Federation, Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles and Bet Tzedek, which helps victims file compensation claims, are in discussions on how to do more.

“We have an obligation and a responsibility to help,” Los Angeles Federation President John Fishel said.

Yet, despite communal agencies’ best efforts, they lack the resources to provide all of the needed services all of the time, said Lisa Brooks, director of communications and donor relations at JFS.

“We can take care of the basics, but sometimes people’s needs go beyond that,” Brooks said.

Whether because of pride, ignorance or extreme physical and metal isolation, some desperate survivors fail to avail themselves of existing services and receive no help.

In the 12 month period, which ended June 30, Jewish Family Service spent $2.1 million on programs for about 700 local survivors, or an average of $3,000 a person, a 17 percent total increase in spending over 2005, said Susie Forer-Dehrey, the agency’s associate executive director. Among other services, JFS offers taxi vouchers for doctors’ visits, in-house cleaning and cooking, counseling, adult day care, free groceries, emergency medical grants and referrals to nursing homes with staffs trained to care for survivors.

When JFS gets involved, the agency can really make a difference. Take the case of the late George Kukawka, a survivor who died earlier this year at 86 from congestive heart failure.

Kukawka’s nephew, Ron Wolfson, a professor of education at the University of Judaism, said that a JFS social worker attended to his uncle’s needs for more than a decade. She arranged for Kukawka to have hot meals delivered to his house, helped him find a high-quality subsidized apartment in the San Fernando Valley and, when Kukawka’s health deteriorated, helped secure him a spot at the Jewish Home for the Aging.

“The community really rallied to care for Uncle George and did it with the Jewish value of honoring the elderly with dignity,” Wolfson said. Born in Poland, Kukawka was forced by the Germans to load trucks in the Warsaw Ghetto. On one occasion, he received a brutal beating that nearly killed him and left him deaf in his right ear. Escaping in 1942, he hid in a Polish forest until the war’s end.

Coming to the United States in 1951, Kukawka moved to Los Angeles a year later and found factory work as a welder. Despite the fresh start, nightmares plagued him, as did his health, which began its slow downward spiral when he developed asthma and emphysema in his 40s. Kukawka never married.

With no savings or pension, Kukawka relied heavily on his monthly government check of $1,079, most of which came from Social Security. If not for the assistance given to him by JFS, Wolfson said, Kukawka’s “life would have been significantly more difficult.”

Like JFS, Bet Tzedek has programs specially tailored to assist Holocaust victims. One of the nation’s only Jewish-run legal aid service agencies, Bet Tzedek has helped 3,000 mostly local survivors apply for restitution and reparations and “fight for their rights as vociferously as possible,” said Mark Rothman, the nonprofit’s Holocaust services advocate.

Rothman’s program is funded, in part, by an annual $50,000 grant from The L.A. Federation. He said his job is to help victims navigate their way through the often-confusing process of applying for compensation from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany or the Claims Conference, as well as from foreign governments and international programs that offer restitution.

Rothman currently has four part-time law clerks and one part-time staffer working with him to help clients determine which funds they qualify for; to fill out applications that sometimes must be translated from German, and to draft appeals in the event of rejections.

Without Rothman’s assistance, many victims would likely never apply for compensation due the complexity and restrictions of several of the funds. The Article 2 Fund, for one, which was created in 1992 after lengthy negotiations between the Claims Conference and the newly reunified Germany, represents an attempt to compensate survivors who had previously received little or no indemnification.

However, the fund has several restrictions imposed by the German government. To qualify, a victim must have been incarcerated for at least six months in a concentration camp, lived illegally under false identity for at least 18 months, hid from the Nazis under inhumane conditions for at least 18 months or been imprisoned for at least 18 months in a Jewish ghetto, as defined by the German government.

A survivor who spent only five months in a concentration camp or 17 months in a ghetto does not qualify. There are also income restrictions. Applicants with annual incomes in excess of $16,000 for a single person and $21,000 per married couple, excluding Social Security, are ineligible.

Over the past 55 years, more than 500,000 Holocaust survivors in 75 countries have received financial compensation as a result of the work of the Claims Conference, said Hillary Kessler-Godin, director of communications for the Claims Conference. Victims who spent time in concentration camps, worked as slave laborers, were subject to medical experiments or who had their properties seized by Nazis and their allies have received some form of compensation and restitution. The Claims Conference has also allocated about $1 billion to organizations, including L.A.’s JFS, for social services and Shoah education. And for many indigent victims, Article 2’s $320 monthly payments or the one-time $3,000 Hardship Fund allocation can make a big difference.

Yet not everyone applying for compensation receives it. The Claims Conference rejects nearly one in five Article 2 applicants. Sometimes survivors meet the requirements, but still are denied because of application errors or an inability to produce birth certificates and other decades-old documents, Bet Tzedek’s Rothman said.

The Claims Conference inspires strong reactions among survivors, who often laud it or lambaste it, said Michael Bazyler, a law professor at Whittier Law School in Orange County and author of “Holocaust Justice: The Battle for Restitution in America’s Courts” and co-editor of “Holocaust Restitution: Perspectives on the Litigation and Its Legacy.” Bazyler believes that the conference, like other large organizations, “may not be as responsive as it should be to the needs” of those it’s designed to serve.

Claims Conference board member Sam Bloch defends the process.

“We’re trying to get as much money as possible from all different sources to provide as much as we can for hundreds of thousands of needy survivors,” said Bloch, who also serves as senior vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, a New York-based national organization. “It’s a complicated operation, but I think we’re meeting our historical obligations and doing an extraordinarily good job.”

Bella Zucker tells a different story.

In September, the wheelchair-bound, 77-year-old survivor of a Romanian labor camp learned that the Claims Conference had turned down her petition for Article 2 compensation. The reason: Information in her application differed from what was said to have been contained in an application her mother had submitted more than 50 years earlier for a special German pension for Holocaust survivors. The Claims Conference, Zucker said, declined to identify the discrepancies. Bet Tzedek plans to file an appeal.

“I feel like I’m victimized again,” said Zucker, who survives on $832 a month in Social Security and disability payments. Just Zucker’s monthly rent for her 800-square-foot house is $700.

Zucker lives in the dusty town of Hemet in Riverside County, with two of her four children. Her life has had its share of challenges.

At the beginning of World War II, she said, German soldiers executed her two teenage brothers in the streets during a pogrom. Later, Germans deported her father to Predeal, Romania, to work in the rock mines. After the war, he was a broken man.

In 1939, soldiers took 9-year-old Zucker and her mother, Chana, to a synagogue in the center of their hometown of Jassy, where they and other female prisoners slept on cold floors and survived on scraps of food thrown to them by Nazis.

The Zuckers scrubbed floors, washed windows, peeled potatoes and cleaned and dried clothes for German soldiers. At night, the young girl had to protect her meager food rations, lest another hungry child steal them. Zucker said she can still hear the tear-stained voices of three Hungarian girls repeatedly asking their mother why they had no bread, margarine and potatoes.

In 1940, Germans loaded Zucker, her mother and other Jews onto a train with blackened windows. Zucker said it was so dark she couldn’t even see her mother beside her. Nobody expected to survive.

A few hours later, Zucker and her mother arrived at a Romanian labor camp, where they spent the next five years scrubbing, scouring and suffering. At war’s end, the 15-year-old Zucker looked like a skeleton.

After the war, Zucker made her way to Israel, where her parents later joined her. An Orthodox Jew and ardent Zionist, she served as a helicopter nurse in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence and suffered four leg wounds. She remained in the Israeli reserves until she immigrated to America, nearly two decades later.

In Israel, she married Chaim Zucker, also a Holocaust survivor, and had four children. Chaim Zucker supported his family as a manual laborer. After the Six-Day War, the Zuckers, tired of Israel’s violence and stress, moved to Detroit, where Chaim Zucker’s two surviving sisters lived.

He worked for 10 years as a carpenter at a local Jewish Community Center, earning $6.25 an hour with no pension benefits. As with many Holocaust survivors who immigrated to the United States later in life, Chaim Zucker’s limited language skills and lack of a college degree made it difficult for him to get higher-paying jobs. Money was always tight, but somehow the family got by.

The Zuckers moved to the Southern California desert in the mid-1980s and later to Orange County after Chaim Zucker’s death in 1992. Around that time, Bella Zucker had a falling out with two of her sons, with whom she now maintains only sporadic contact. After a lifetime of hardship and heartache, Zucker’s health began to decline.

In the late 1990s, Sara Zucker, her daughter, quit her job as an office manager to care for her sick mother. With their finances in tatters, Sara and Bella Zucker moved to Hemet, one of the few places in the area they could afford. Charles Zucker, Bella Zucker’s 47-year-old son, who has just graduated from junior college, also moved in to help care for his mother.

Two years ago, Sara Zucker became her mother’s full-time caretaker. Riverside County pays her $300 a week for her services, enough to help defray rent and other expenses. At age 42, Sara Zucker, too, has become a virtual shut-in, spending her days cooking, cleaning, bathing and dressing her mother. Because she can’t leave her mother alone for more than one hour at a time, Sara Zucker said, she “can’t go on dates, go out with girlfriends for lunch or get my hair done.”

Adding to their woes, a doctor recently diagnosed Sara Zucker with failing kidneys. Her condition has stabilized through medication, but she worries that she might need dialysis and no longer be able to care for her arthritic, partially deaf mother.

Sara Zucker’s physician suggested that she consider leaving Hemet and relocating to a bigger city, such as Palm Springs, where she could receive better medical care in hospitals with newer technology. Given the desert’s relatively large Jewish population, living there would also allow the Zuckers to reconnect with the community and join a synagogue, Sara Zucker said.

With no money to pay for such a move, Sara Zucker called the Jewish Federation of Palm Springs & Desert Area and Jewish Family Service of Palm Springs for help. Both agencies turned down her request.

“Even for residents of Palm Spring, we don’t have any sort of relocation programs,” Palm Springs Federation Executive Director Alan Klugman said. “I wish we were able to have that type of program, but unfortunately we don’t.”

Sara Zucker recently called Jewish Family Services of the Inland Communities and helped her mother secure a one-time grant of $250. Despite this help, Sara Zucker said, “we might be stuck here with no way out.”

Bella Zucker, a solider of Zion, devout Jew and survivor, said she feels totally abandoned by the community.

“They don’t help me,” she said, her hand resting on the belt that prevents her from falling out of her wheelchair. “I need help.”

As bad as her situation is, Bella Zucker said she thanks God for her two devoted offspring. “I don’t know what would happen if they couldn’t take care of me.”

Life is even more dire for Moscovitz, the shut-in survivor who’s mired in debt and health problems.

With the exception of a couple of friends, whom he rarely sees, and his caretaker, he has nobody and next to nothing. He recently hawked a battered wood dresser for $25. Moscovitz said he had counted on receiving some money from the Claims Conference, but that the organization denied his request for reasons still unclear to him.

Born in Jassy, Romania, the same town as Bella Zucker, he and his brother, Ado, fled their small apartment just before the Nazis arrived. Moscovitz’s parents weren’t so fortunate. His father died on a train en route to a camp. His mother survived the war but died little more than a decade later in 1956.

Moscovitz and his brother — who died long ago — spent much of the war huddled in an underground bunker with five other children in the Romanian countryside. They subsisted largely on produce stolen from local farmers. On several occasions, Moscovitz could see the boots of nearby German soldiers from his hiding place. After the war, Moscovitz made his way to Israel. He fought in the War of Independence and later suffered a stomach wound during the Suez Crisis of 1956. During his years in Israel, he worked as a glassmaker, his father’s profession in Romania. When Moscovitz came to the United States in 1967 to visit a friend, he liked Southern California so much he decided to stay.

In the beginning, Moscovitz eked out a living working for a manufacturer of glassworks, before striking out on his own. Making one-of-a-kind glass artworks, including ornate tables and mirrors, he earned $50,000 to $60,000 annually — a good living. One year, Moscovitz said, he took home $200,000. There were European vacations, houses and nice cars.

He lost it all about 15 years ago, when his health failed, around the same time his wife died. With medical bills mounting and no health insurance, Moscovitz burned through his savings. A malpractice judgment for a botched surgery helped stave off ruin for awhile, but the $30,000 he received, after lawyer’s fees, exhausted itself.

Today, he lives on the edge of an emotional, physical and financial abyss.

“I don’t matter to nobody. I don’t bring nothing to nobody,” Moscovitz said. “I don’t care if I die. If I die, I will dance on my grave with pleasure.”

In Memoriam: George E. Preston

George E. Preston
Phila. Inquirer

GEORGE E., 92, of Wilmington, Del., died Nov. 8, 2006. Born Grisza Priszkulnik on March 31, 1914, in Rovno, Russia (now Rivne, Ukraine). Retired DuPont Co. electrical engineer. Master’s degree in electrical and mechanical engineering, University of Caen, France, 1937. Arrested by Gestapo on Aug. 8, 1942, in Lille, France. Imprisoned in Nazi death camps Buchenwald and Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he was tattooed 160581 and where he was among skilled prisoners working as slave laborers for Siemens-Schuckert (now Siemens AG). Weighed 80 pounds at liberation by U.S. troops from Buchenwald on April 11, 1945. Came to U.S. 1946. Testified at Auschwitz war-crimes trials in Frankfurt in March 1965. Predeceased by his first wife, Halina Wind Preston. Survivors: his wife, Charlotte; a son, David Lee Preston (Ronda B. Goldfein, Esq.) of Philadelphia; a daughter, Cantor Shari Ann Preston of Redondo Beach, Calif.; three stepsons, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Hon. Christopher S. Sontchi (Siobhan L. Irwin, MD) of Hockessin, Del., Michael Sontchi, Esq. (Jennifer), of Wilmington, Jonathan Sontchi (Meredith) of Tuckerton, N.J.; four step-grandchildren. Services and burial were Nov. 10. Donations may be sent to: Halina Wind Preston Holocaust Lecture Fund, c/o Jewish Federation of Delaware, 100 W. 10th St., Suite 301, Wilmington, DE 19801.

LATimes: How Low Can You Go?

Profiting from the Holocaust
Lawyers who represent Holocaust survivors should do it for long-delayed justice rather than personal enrichment.
By Menachem Z. Rosensaft
MENACHEM Z. ROSENSAFT, a lawyer in New York, is the founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

November 19, 2006

IF LAWYERS EVER WONDER, in a rare moment of introspection, why they are generally held in low esteem, they need look no further than the obscene fee application pending before a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Burt Neuborne, the court-appointed lead settlement counsel in a class action brought on behalf of Holocaust survivors against Swiss banks, has turned himself into the poster boy for avaricious attorneys. He demands $4.75 million for his role in administering the $1.25-billion settlement and determining distribution of the money.

Neuborne, a tenured professor at New York University’s law school and legal director of NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, is looking to profiteer from Holocaust-era litigation. Survivors he purports to represent in the litigation have received $1,450 each. A decision on his fee application could come any day.

No one can be required, or should be expected, to work for free. Lawyers — like doctors, plumbers or cab drivers — have a right to make a living. There is a difference, however, between fair compensation and utter exorbitance.

Neuborne wants to be paid $700 an hour for the roughly 6,800 hours he claims to have spent on the Swiss banks case between Feb. 1, 1999, and Oct. 1, 2005. (Earlier this year, he agreed to remove 1,500 hours from his fee application after some of his billing practices were challenged.) That averages out to about 20 hours a week, for which he wants to be paid, again on average, $675,000 a year. This would be on top of $4.4 million he received in 2001 from another Holocaust-era settlement with German corporations that had exploited Jews and Roma/Sinti as slave laborers during World War II.

In sharp contrast, Kenneth R. Feinberg, who served as the special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, worked entirely pro bono.

Neuborne acknowledges that U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman asked him in early 1997 to “serve in a pro bono capacity as co-counsel for the plaintiffs” in the Swiss banks litigation. As recently as September 2005, Neuborne told a federal judge in Miami that he was “the lead settlement lawyer in the Swiss case, in which I served without fee now for almost seven years.” Three months after that, he submitted his multimillion-dollar tab to the court. He now argues that $4.75 million is a smaller proportion of the $1.25-billion Swiss banks settlement than he would normally be entitled to in a federal class action.

But the Holocaust was not just another mass tort. Governments, banks, insurance companies and private corporations all participated in, profited from or failed to prevent the brutal annihilation of European Jews. Unlike typical class-action suits, in which a manufacturer is deemed liable for a defective product or a corporation is charged with discrimination, the various Holocaust-era litigations are rooted in a crime against humanity for which much of the international community — including the United States — bears at least some responsibility. Stuart E. Eizenstat, who negotiated many of the Holocaust assets settlements while serving as undersecretary of State and deputy secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration, explained that these cases gave him, in his words, “a chance to help remove a cloud over the history of the United States, which had sacrificed so greatly to win the war but done so little to prevent civilian genocide and then help its survivors after the conflict.”

Lawyers who take on matters in this context have moral and ethical obligations that transcend their narrow self-interest. They should view their representation of Holocaust survivors as an opportunity to bring about a long-delayed measure of justice rather than a means of enriching themselves.

In October 2000, Neuborne wrote in a letter to the editor in the Nation that “every penny in the $1.25-billion Swiss bank case will go to Holocaust victims.” U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein, who has broad discretion in recommending what Neuborne’s fee should be, should bear those words in mind as he ponders his ruling.

In addition to compensating account holders or their heirs, the Swiss banks settlement provides for modest payments to former slave laborers and allocations to social service agencies that care for the neediest Holocaust survivors. Every dollar awarded to Neuborne by the court is one that could otherwise assist a victim of the Holocaust. Many elderly survivors — living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in South Florida or elsewhere — cannot afford desperately needed medical treatment. The combination of Medicare, Social Security and the meager reparations that some of them receive from Germany is insufficient to pay for doctors, extended hospital stays, nursing care, prescription drugs, eyeglasses and the like.

One of the principal purposes of the Holocaust assets litigations is to provide a safety net for the men and women who suffered so horrendously at the hands of the Nazis and to enable them to live out their remaining years with a modicum of dignity. That is why the court should repudiate Neuborne’s excessive greed and instead designate most, if not all, of the $4.75 million he seeks for the benefit of survivors.