Holocaust Day - Emil Salman - 19.4.2012
The Holocaust Remembrance Day memorial service in Yad Vashem, April 19, 2012. Photo by Emil Salman
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A Finance Ministry official chose Holocaust Remembrance Day, of all days, to announce that he would not recognize some 2,000 survivors of Nazi persecution as eligible for pensions or compensation according to the Disabled Victims of Nazi Persecution Law. The official, Amit Sadan, announced his decision in a letter to the Interior Ministry, which he signed off with the words "have a good day."

Sadan's decision concerns people who lived in cities that were occupied by the Germans in World War II, even though their entire country was not occupied, as was the case in Tunisia and Greece. Upon their immigration to Israel, they were not requested to declare their city of origin, and therefore the authorities do not have any official document proving that they lived in a city occupied by the Nazis.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai began a process several months ago, to recognize the survivors' cities of origin even without documented proof, and enable them to claim compensation and pensions.

But Sadan, a senior treasury official, sent a letter to the Interior Ministry saying that the financial implications of Yishai's action would be some NIS 60 million a year, assuming all 2,000 applicants will be eligible for pensions. "Therefore the Budgets Department opposes this move," he wrote.

Born in Djerba, fighting bureaucracy in Jerusalem

Yishai initiated the move following appeals by survivors who couldn't prove to the ministry that they were born in cities that suffered from the Nazi occupation.

Eliyahu Hadad of Kiryat Gat was one such survivor. He wrote a letter to Yishai explaining that the day he immigrated to Israel, "the clerk from the Jewish Agency marked my place of birth as Tunisia. I have now learned that I am eligible for compensation, like all the Jews of Djerba." Hadad appealed to the Interior Ministry to receive a document stating that he was born in Djerba, but ministry officials refused, claiming they have no such documentation." Hadad said he could present four witnesses who could prove he was indeed born in the North African island, off the coast of Tunisia.

Yishai wrote to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, requesting that the ministry recognize survivors' declarations of city of origin, even if they lacked formal documentation.

"I have directed the Population Administration to add their full place of birth, based on a affidavit," Yishai wrote. "I wish, in compliance with my powers according to the Population Registration Law, to aid these people, and be satisfied with an affidavit." The answer he received, however, was negative.

According to Finance Ministry data, 45,350 Israelis receive compensation according to the criteria set by the Disabled Victims of Nazi Persecution Law. The Finance Ministry said on Thursday that it "does not intend to discuss in the media inner professional correspondence between government ministries."

However, the treasury added that it would work together with the Interior Ministry to relieve the bureaucratic burden on Holocaust survivors."

Read this article in Hebrew