Holocaust survivors seeking compensation face red tape wall
Only 2,000 out of the 8,000 Holocaust survivors eligible for compensation under a 2007 law are actually receiving
Only 2,000 out of the 8,000 Holocaust survivors eligible for compensation under a 2007 law are actually receiving it, officials said on Sunday.
Under the law, all camp and ghetto survivors may receive NIS 1,000 a month, including retroactive compensation. A Finance Ministry department is in charge of distributing funds, and it has a budget to do so.
Many people who seem eligible do not know to apply, or were rejected for a variety of reasons. One such survivor is Ruth Epstein, 84. When she was 14, she saw her mother shot and tossed into a pit with 40 other women from the town of Yashi, Romania. Epstein treated her father in hiding, after he lost a leg. He died despite her efforts.
Epstein immigrated to Israel, where she worked all her life. The only Holocaust-related compensation she received was a one-off sum from the German government, "for wearing the yellow badge."
She is now in poor health - she underwent operations to remove tumors and her gallbladder, and has osteoporosis and a slipped disc. She also cares for her only son. Epstein does all this on a NIS 2,334 National Insurance payment. She recently decided to claim her compensation.
She submitted a request to the Finance Ministry invalid rehabilitation department, which is responsible for implementing the law. Even though she submitted all her medical records and the "yellow badge" document certifying she is a Holocaust survivor, she was turned away.
"To be eligible for the compensation, a person must meet two criteria," the department said. "A person must prove persecution, and ailments resulting from said persecution.
While Ms. Epstein's history of persecution had been proved, we are still awaiting a document proving the connection with her illnesses."
Ruth Epstein is far from alone. Itzhak Bar Natan, 83, another Holocaust survivor from Romania who is now in poor health, also is not receiving any compensation.
He, too, received a one-off sum "for wearing the yellow badge," and is registered with the Holocaust Survivors Welfare Fund.
However, the state does not recognize him as a Holocaust survivor and gives him no benefits. He lives on his NIS 2,200 monthly national insurance check.
A year ago, he underwent bypass surgery, and he suffers from neurological and psychological problems. However, the invalid rehabilitation department believes his case lacks the necessary documentation.
Another survivor denied compensation is Yossef Moskowitz, 79 of Haifa, who was a forced laborer for three years.
"Mr. Moskowitz was recognized as a forced laborer in work considered less arduous than the hard labor in closed camps," stated the official rejection. "Mr. Moskowitz does not meet the criteria for compensation, and while we are empathetic to his situation, there is nothing we can do to help."
The law was passed two years ago following protests by Holocaust survivors and their supporters.