ISRAELHAIOM.COM: American Survivors Reject Israel Finance Ministry moves vs. Holocaust survivors

Beersheva–
Representing more than 85,000 survivor families in North America, The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants rejects the attempts of the Israeli Ministry of Finance to demand that thousands of Israeli Holocaust survivors give the government control of their bank accounts. A Ministry cover letter sent to Israeli survivors makes it clear that if they do not sign power of attorney forms and return them to the Finance Ministry by August 31, they will no longer receive their benefits.

In 2007, a law was passed granting benefits of NIS 1,000 a month to survivors who were not receiving other pensions. While the Ministry budgeted for 8,000 such survivors, benefits were only granted to approximately 3,000. Other survivors who believe they are eligible have applied–only to find themselves caught in a delaying morass of red tape.

Rafi Pinto, who heads the Holocaust survivors department at the Finance Ministry, told Haaretz that all of the approximately 40,000 survivors living in Israel who receive benefits- and not just those qualifying under the 2007 law – are required to submit a similar form.

The American Gathering agreed with Avi Bitzur, outgoing director general of the Ministry of Pensioner’s Affairs, who, when telling Haaretz that he had no idea that the Finance Ministry intended to send out these forms said, “It is doubtful that they [the Holocaust survivors] know what they are signing.” Then, referring to the Finance Ministry, he added, “They have… gone wild.”

The American Gathering urged the Knesset and Cabinet to annul this heinous decree and allow the elderly and impoverished Israeli Holocaust survivors to live out the remainder of their lives in Israel with a modicum of dignity and without being harassed by the government of a State that owes them so much more than they are getting.

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HAARETZ: Movement on medicating Holocaust survivors

By Orly Vilnai

Two years have passed since Nahum Itzkovitz, the director general of the Social Affairs Ministry, wrote a special report under instructions from Minister Isaac Herzog about the situation of Holocaust survivors. Everything that was written later in the State Comptroller’s report and in the Dorner Commission report was written there. Had the government only implemented the recommendations of the report then, the survivors would have been spared a great deal of suffering.

But Itzkovitz is not giving up. At present, very quietly, he is trying to bring about the implementation of additional articles in the plan rejected by the Finance Ministry, which include arranging the provision of free medicine to all Holocaust survivors. At present only those who are compensated directly by Germany or by the treasury receive free medicine, and then only medicine for their recognized illness.

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HAARETZ: Holocaust survivors: Israel's Leumi bank crueler than EU banks

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz Correspondent

Bank Leumi’s refusal to return money that belonged to Jews murdered in the Holocaust seriously harms efforts to retrieve Jewish property from European banks, leaders of restitution organizations said Thursday at a demonstration in Tel Aviv. Bank Leumi denies these claims.

About 100 Holocaust survivors demonstrated outside the bank’s head office, demanding that it return NIS 300 million they say belongs to Jews murdered during the Holocaust. The bank’s management – which held an annual meeting in the building – did not send a representative to speak to the elderly men and women.

Mordechai Hareli, chairman of the organization representing Jewish forced laborers, said: “We’re fighting against a Jewish institution which surpasses European banks in its level of hearltessness.” Avraham Roet, founder of the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets, added: “The refusal to meet us is almost as infuriating as the appropriation of funds.”

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HAARETZ: Holocaust survivor gets PhD for thesis on roots of Auschwitz

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz Correspondent

At the ripe age of 81, a Holocaust survivor from Haifa has received a PhD for a thesis showing how Auschwitz-Birkenau began as a camp for coerced laborers working for a mismanaged Nazi industrial project.

“My life never had much of a linear or logical course,” Eliezer Schwartz said when asked why he decided to enter academia so late in the game.

Before he began researching the Nazi concentration and extermination camp in Poland, Schwartz worked for many years as project head and urban planner for Solel Boneh, the Israeli construction giant.
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When Schwartz retired at 75, his three grandchildren advised him to write a doctoral thesis, which he wrote with pen and paper. “Computer skills are a bit much for me now,” he said


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HAARETZ: SURVIVING ON NOTHING

Collecting on Yaakov’s calls
By Orly Vilnai HAARETZ

Surviving on nothing

Lazar Lachmanovitch, 91, is a Holocaust survivor from Hungary whose only source of income is a guaranteed-minimum-income welfare payment. Ava, his daughter, takes care of him and tries to help him make use of the financial rights for which he qualifies. About a year ago, she bought a washing machine for her father, and placed a claim for a sales tax refund, for survivors living solely on government stipends, with the Holocaust Survivors Welfare Fund (supported by the Claims Committee and the Israeli government).

She filled out all the forms, but the refund never arrived. Neither did repayment for reading glasses and medicine she had purchased for him. When she called to inquire, she was told that something called the Hungarian Fund, which was to return the sales tax, was out of money, but that the other expenses would be sent within a month’s time. Four months later not a shekel had come or was on the way.

At the same time, Lachmanovitch received an announcement that he qualified for NIS 300 worth of goods from the Meir Panim relief organization. Meir Panim, which runs soup kitchens, gets its budget from a government company for the return of property of those murdered in the Holocaust to assist survivors.

His daughter approached Meir Panim in order to register her father but was told that they would have to investigate whether or not he qualified. It took a few more weeks before a representative called and asked once again for his details. When he still did not receive an answer, Ava called again, only to be told that the project had been suspended.

She contacted us for help. Within two days the food project manager called and apologized, and a few days later an NIS 300 food card arrived.

As for the Hungarian grant, we were told that following a large number of requests, the fund is currently empty, but a new budget is expected soon.

About the refund of personal expenses, Ava was asked to fill out more forms. She did, in triplicate, and last week her father received the money in full.

JEWISH COMMUNITY OF LOUISVILLE: Nazi-Era Looted Judaica Documented by Claims Conference in First International Guide

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 10,000 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.

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.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) represents world Jewry in negotiating for compensation and restitution for victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs. The Claims Conference administers compensation funds, recovers unclaimed Jewish property, and allocates funds to institutions that provide social welfare services to Holocaust survivors and preserve the memory and lessons of the Shoah.

Haaretz: Heirless Jewish assets to be used for aid to survivors

Heirless Jewish assets to be used for aid to survivors

By Cnaan Liphshiz

East European nations yesterday stated for the first time that heirless Jewish property should be used to aid needy Holocaust survivors. The statement was the final and joint resolution of the Holocaust Era Assets Conference, which ended yesterday in Prague.

“In some states heirless property could serve as a basis for addressing the material necessities of needy Holocaust survivors,” said the 10-page declaration, signed by 46 countries including Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania.

Retired diplomat Reuven Merhav, who put together Israel’s delegation, told Haaretz the declaration was “a historic and great achievement for Israel,” which secured all of Israel’s goals for the conference. Though the document is not legally binding, he said, “it sets a norm.”


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Voice of America: The European Union and dozens of countries have pledged to speed up social support for Holocaust survivors

By Stefan Bos
Budapest
30 June 2009

The European Union and dozens of countries have pledged to speed up social support for Holocaust survivors and the search for art and other items that were stolen during World War II by the Nazis. At the meeting in Prague, they agreed to establish a special European institute to deal with these issues and education.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout delivers speech during Holocaust Era Assets Conference in Prague, 29 Jun 2009

As the number of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust rapidly declines, there was a sense of urgency among delegates that the world must provide them with adequate social assistance and compensation for stolen goods.

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