by Dr. Gerhard Falk
It or Not ......
today about 25,000 living Jewish survivors of the slave labor camps established
by the Europeans between 1933 and 1945. These are the remnants of those 200,000
who came out of the camps at the end of World War II. These are the old people
who had survived their families and friends and are now living in poverty.
there are among the survivors some who “have made it”. They are the few who
struck it rich in business or who managed to get an education in their adopted
homeland, enter the professions and secure a good income for themselves.
majority of the 200,000 worked in factories, department stores and the civil
service and earned only small pensions to support themselves in their old age, i.e.
as 1951 twenty-four American - Jewish organizations established the Conference
on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. That Conference succeeded during
many years of negotiating with the Germans to bring about at least a minimum of
compensation to these survivors. A good share of the money the German government
was willing to pay was given to Israel as the inheritor of that share which
pertained to those of the 6 million murder victims who had no heirs. The amount
paid to Israel was 3 billion German Marks (Deutschmark) or $1.74 billion.
Israel had received such compensation, some of the survivors were compensated
directly by the German government in the form of pensions earned by older
survivors who were eligible for German social security payments and in the form
of compensatory pensions. These “restitution” pensions were very small but,
when added to pensions earned in this country, made it possible for the older
survivors to live in relative security. Younger survivors were usually given
lump sum payments. These consisted usually of $1,000, a ridiculous sum compared
to the years of suffering and the huge material goods stolen from all the Jews
during the years 1933-1945.
this was limited to German Jews who were citizens of West Germany before 1933.
East Germany refused to pay one cent to the survivors, so that the claims of
East German Jews could not be made until the wall fell in 1989. Thereafter, some
Jews from the eastern part of Germany also received small payments after an
immense number of bureaucratic papers had been filed.
were only 585,000 Jews in all of Germany before the Nazi takeover. Only 15,000
survived, so that the German government had few obligations. The bulk of the
survivors were of course from Eastern Europe. They had never been Germans and
therefore received nothing from the German government until the “Claims
Conference” succeeded in gaining another DM 450 million, or less than $270
million, in 1952.
years of haggling over the money, which the Germans labeled “Jewish
manipulation” as if the victims were money mad, the Jewish Claims Conference
succeeded in gaining a treaty from Germany in October of 1992 which extended the
payments to Jews who had formerly not lived in Germany but were brutally
victimized. Of course the Germans benefited greatly from the fact that so many
years had gone by and a vast number of their erstwhile victims had died.
of 1998 the German government allocated another DM200 million or about $125
million to be used to pay about $290 a month as regular payments to holocaust
survivors who need this money in their old age.
was, however, not paid directly to the survivors but to the Jewish Claims
Conference, now entrusted with the task of locating and paying this German money
to individual former slave laborers and other victims. All told, the Claims
Conference has accumulated in its accounts about $1.5 billion because the
conference sold a number of erstwhile Jewish property without heirs to gain so
large an amount. It had therefore been thought that the claims conference could
support the needy survivors who, in their old age, cannot wait much longer, as
death is knocking on their doors.
of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, however, has now become an
entrenched bureaucracy. After 52 years the conference suffers from huge
administrative costs involving executive directors, assistant directors,
lawyers, secretaries, travel expenses, offices, cars, conferences etc. etc. etc.
Therefore, the conference has set aside about 20% of its holdings for such
expenses and other projects to the detriment of the survivors and their heirs.
For example, a woman now living in New York sued the Claims Conference on the
grounds that the conference took property in Germany belonging to her deceased
parents and kept it for itself instead of giving her, the only surviving child
of the erstwhile owners, the property or the money. The Conference handed the
proceeds from the sale of that erstwhile Jewish property to the rightful heir
only after this woman filed a lawsuit against the Conference.
that is the failure of the Conference to keep 20% of the money paid by German
insurance companies who had withheld their obligation to the insured all these
years. The conference bosses are evidently not concerned with the fate of the
poor Jews who suffered the Holocaust in their youth and suffer poverty in their
old age. Instead the Conference bosses, not survivors themselves of course, want
to use large segments of the available funds for public speakers, meetings,
museums and other visible projects but not needy victims who must have support
Conference now owns a considerable amount of East German property restored to
the Jewish people after 1990. So far the Conference has refused to publish a
list of all this property which should be restored to the rightful owners, i.e.
the survivors themselves or their heirs.
The sum of
this story is that once more power, bureaucracy and aggrandizement is more
important than aid to those who need it the most.
numerous Jewish organizations and media have demanded that the Conference alter
its policy and first support the poor survivors before spending large sums on
other projects there is a possibility that these policies will now be changed.
Still we ask: “why does it take lawsuits and publicity to give help to those
who need help instead of spending their money on the antics of bureaucrats?”
Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications,
A New Look at the Supporting Generation (with Dr. Ursula A., Falk, 2002),
Ascent to Reason (2003).