the jewish week nyc: Spotlight On Holocaust-Era Assets, One Last Time

by Gideon Taylor
Special To The Jewish Week

In a few months we will soon mark the 70th anniversary of the beginning of history

German Social Security for Ghetto Workers Liberalized

Following a decision of the German Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht) in early June, tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors previously rejected for German Social Security payments under the country

AP: Survivors to get additional ghetto pensions

Nazi ghetto survivors get pensions

Associated Press
BERLIN – A German federal court ruled yesterday that two Jews who were forced by the Nazis to work in ghettos have a right to a pension for their labor, setting the stage for thousands of others to receive payments.

The Federal Social Affairs Court in Kassel ruled that the two qualified for pensions because, although they were not financially compensated for their work, they received food and other items – meaning the German government was responsible for them.

The two plaintiffs did cleaning and washing in a ghetto in Poland. The court did not release their names.

The ruling sets a precedent for about 70,000 people who were forced by the Nazis to work in ghettos, or their descendants, to make claims.

Most would be able to claim payments of 150 euros (about $212) per month, backdated to July 1, 1997. The payments could add up to more than 1 billion euros, according to estimates, and would come out of Germany’s federal pension program.

The Jewish Claims Conference, which administers compensation payments, applauded the court’s decision.

The verdict “speaks to the spirit of the law,” said Georg Heuberger, a spokesman for the conference in Germany, “and provides many Holocaust survivors whose claims for pensions have been refused a little justice.”

HARDSHIP FUND NEWS UPDATE FROM CLAIMS CONFERENCE

13,000 Needy Nazi Victims in 36 Countries to Receive $42 Million
From Claims Conference Negotiations With Germany:
Most Have Never Before Received Compensation

March 19, 2009 — As a result of Claims Conference negotiations with the German government, Jewish victims of Nazism who applied to the Hardship Fund and were not eligible for payment under German government criteria will now be able to file a second application. Most have never before received a Holocaust era compensation payment.

This is a very significant breakthrough that may affect 13,000 Jewish victims of Nazism in 36 countries, including Israel, the U.S., Germany, Australia, and Canada.
This agreement will result in more than

NEEDY HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS IN CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE TO RECEIVE INCREASED PAYMENTS FROM CLAIMS CONFERENCE NEGOTIATIONS

PENSIONS TO INCREASE BY APPROXIMATELY

Searches: seeking Juelich family from Hamburg

Dear AGHS,

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NAZI-ERA LOOTED JUDAICA LOCATIONS DOCUMENTED BY CLAIMS CONFERENCE IN FIRST INTERNATIONAL GUIDE

NAZI-ERA LOOTED JUDAICA LOCATIONS DOCUMENTED
BY CLAIMS CONFERENCE IN FIRST INTERNATIONAL GUIDE

Millions of Books, Objects Held in Public, Private Collections; Restitution Urged

Jan. 26, 2009 — In a major first step to ensure that Jewish sacred items looted during the Holocaust era are identified and protected, Claims Conference Chairman Julius Berman announced that the Claims Conference has produced the “Descriptive Catalogue of Looted Judaica,” the first attempt ever to identify the locations of Judaica worldwide that were looted or lost during the Holocaust or immediately afterward. The catalogue is a listing of all known sources that can help locate and identify this Judaica.

“Identifying the locations of items will help communities and researchers attempting to trace lost and stolen Judaica, and may help stem the flow of trafficking of the more valuable pieces,” said Gideon Taylor, Claims Conference Executive Vice President.

“The Claims Conference is working to shed light on this area of restitution so that sacred items may be returned to their rightful Jewish communities or to the Jewish people,” said Claims Conference Chairman Julius Berman.

The catalogue is available at http://forms.claimscon.org/Judaica. The definition of Judaica encompasses items used in prayer, such as prayerbooks and tefillin, ritual items such as candlesticks and Seder Plates used at Passover, and archives, libraries, and objects relating to Jewish life generally.

Although much media focus in recent years has been on art looted by the Nazis, the issue of looted Judaica is of perhaps even greater moral importance. At the end of World War II, after the theft and destruction of several million Jewish households and the Nazis’ attempt to wipe out Jewish culture, there remained in existence in Europe perhaps some ten thousand Torah scrolls, a few hundred thousand ritual items that had not been melted down, and some ten million Jewish books. At present it is believed that several thousand of these Torah scrolls, some tens of thousands of these ritual items, and several million of these books are not in Jewish hands, but in public and private collections around the world.

In order to call attention to the problem of looted Judaica, the Claims Conference and World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) are urging that the matter be treated as a priority. Plans for the intergovernmental Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets being hosted by the Czech Republic in June 2009, a decade after the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, call for a separate discussion of Judaica and Jewish cultural property.

This catalogue is a continuation of efforts by the Claims Conference and WJRO to promote the restitution of Holocaust-era looted art and cultural property.

The Descriptive Catalogue of Looted Judaica does not list every individual piece of stolen Jewish cultural property, since in many cases the fate of individual items is not known, but it provides a starting point for communities, families, and researchers to identify where sacred and other objects of importance to the Jewish people may now be found. This catalogue is intended to make accessible and piece together information already available into a more readily searchable form. It also provides a starting point for discussions with and among the many countries involved.

Ritual and sacred items that were stolen from Jewish individuals and communities during the Shoah are known to be held in at least 24 countries. This includes countries such as the U.S., the U.K., and Austria, where databases listing individual items are available, and included in the Claims Conference catalogue. In addition, there are lists that have been compiled of Torah scrolls in public institutions in Poland, Ukraine, and elsewhere.

In other instances there are more general descriptions of looted collections as a whole. For example, Project Judaica has published a guide to the Jewish collections in the Russian State Military Archive that were brought to Moscow by the Soviet Army. In still other instances, the location of looted Judaica is known but no overall description has been made (e.g., the Jewish libraries taken from France that are now in Minsk).

In order to ensure orderliness in discussions of restitution of Torah scrolls, the Claims Conference/WJRO is working with the Universal Torah Registry to register Torah scrolls in Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union.

The spoliation of Jewish cultural and religious property was an official part of the Nazis’ campaign against those labeled as “ideological enemies of the Reich.” Aside from objets d’art, a myriad number of Jewish cultural and religious objects were also looted from 1933 to 1945. The number of looted Jewish books was in the millions, with entire libraries and collections confiscated.

Numerous looting agencies, both within the Reich (including those territories that were annexed to Nazi Germany such as Austria, Poland, and parts of Czechoslovakia), as well as agencies operating outside of the Nazi-occupied territories were responsible for what can be called the greatest theft in the history of humanity. The cooperation among these organizations provided the framework for the extensive looting of Jewish cultural and religious property.

American attempts at restitution began even before the war’s end, with the first commission established in 1943 to protect items found or recovered. But after the war, the American intent to restitute items to countries from which they came could not be applied to the millions of Judaica objects, including 2.5 million books in addition to sacred objects, classified as stateless.

By mid-1946, after the American Allies had already distributed millions of objects from the Offenbach Archival Depot, there were still about 500,000 books, about 1,000 Torah scrolls and 17,000 ceremonial objects left for which no claims had been received, and no identification of prior ownership could be reasonably established. Jewish restitution agencies were formed and given responsibility for distributing these items to Jewish communities worldwide.

CLAIMS CONFERENCE GETS ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR SURVIVORS

Claims Conference to Increase Funds for Nazi Victim Services in 2009
$168 Million to Be Allocated in 43 Countries
In these difficult economic times, the Claims Conference is increasing its total allocations in 2009 for vital social services for elderly Jewish victims of Nazism. For programs in 2009, a total of approximately $168 million will be allocated for social welfare programs. In 2008, the Claims Conference allocated a total of approximately $150 million to assist Nazi victims.

Allocations were made in 43 countries for services such as homecare for homebound Nazi victims in need, medical assistance, food programs, transportation, emergency cash grants, winter relief, and socialization programs. Since 1995, the Claims Conference has been the foremost organization in the world in identifying and addressing the unique social welfare and health needs of Jewish victims of Nazism.

click here:
View details of Claims Conference allocations for 2009.

Examples of programs receiving Claims Conference allocations for 2009 include:

In-home services for Nazi victims around the world, which includes assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, laundry, housekeeping, and shopping. These services enable Nazi victims to remain in their own homes and to live with an added measure of dignity. In Israel, the Claims Conference is the primary funder of homecare for more than 15,000 Nazi victims.

Special on-going service programs for Holocaust survivors in more than 50 communities in the U.S. and Canada. Claims Conference funds enable these agencies to provide services such as homecare, transportation assistance, emergency cash grants, medical alert systems, friendly visiting by volunteers, meals on wheels, social programs, and money management.

In Israel, maintenance of institutions caring for Nazi victims such as nursing homes, hospital wards, and day centers, so that the most up-to-date care is provided in dignified, modern facilities. The Claims Conference also subsidizes the cost of day center attendance for needy Nazi victims.

Lifesaving services for impoverished Nazi victims in the former Soviet Union. The Claims Conference funds hunger relief such as nearly 1 million meals on wheels, along with hot meals in communal settings; more than 4 million hours of homecare, including assistance with washing, dressing, cooking, and housekeeping; winter relief such as coal, wood, or gas, materials for sealing windows, warm blankets, coats, and clothes, and grants for electricity; and other vital services.

Expanded services for Nazi victims in Latin America, including a new allocation in Venezuela to Yajad – Red de Asistencia Social de la Comunidad Judia de Venezuela, which will use Claims Conference funds to provide emergency financial assistance to Nazi victims. Agencies in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Mexico also receive Claims Conference allocations to provide medical assistance, food programs, homecare, and other services to Nazi victims.

Most of the funds to be allocated for 2009 programs are from the Claims Conference Successor Organization, which recovers proceeds from unclaimed Jewish property in the former East Germany. The Claims Conference also administers social service grants from German government funds negotiated by the Claims Conference; the Swiss Banks Settlement Looted Assets Class, on behalf of the U.S. District Court; the