Israeli Ministers Back Bill to Double State Aid to Holocaust Survivors

Money would come from Holocaust restitution company accused of conflict of interest.

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A bill to double the amount of state aid to Holocaust survivors while slashing funds for The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets won unanimous support on Sunday from the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. The bill calls for the gradual elimination of the company, which has transferred to descendants of survivors only 3 percent of the property it has recovered since its founding in 2005. The company came under vehement attack from the bill’s sponsor, MK Merav Michaeli (Labor).

“Since it was founded, the company’s administration has represented a dual conflict of interests, taking advantage of the funds available to Holocaust survivors and their descendants,” she said.

“In light of the large amount of funds currently held by the company, and the fact that the number of Holocaust survivors is decreasing every year, there is cause to significantly increase the amount of aid that the survivors receive, while preserving their rights and dignity,” she maintained.

Descendants got only 3 percent of assets

The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets has been active since 2005, and has recovered 1.65 billion shekels ($580.3 million) worth of property. As of 2012, only 3 percent of the assets were transferred to descendants of survivors. After discounting funds used by the company for administrative costs and aiding survivors, the company still holds roughly 870 million shekels in its coffers, half of it in liquid assets.

According to Michaeli, in December 2012, the company held some 400 million shekels in liquid assets that could be used as direct aid to Holocaust survivors, without harming the company’s ability to function.

The bill calls for doubling the amount of financial support granted every year to Holocaust survivors, which would put the amount at over 200 million shekels. If passed, the bill would also have some 80% of the funds directly transferred to survivors’ bank accounts, thus reducing administrative costs of transferring the funds.

At the same time, the bill would put an end to some of the company’s activities on the way to slowly phasing it out. That clause was added in response to a declaration made by the company in July, when it stated it would continue to look for assets lost during the Holocaust, even as the cost of doing so would rise far beyond the value of any assets that could be located.

Holocaust survivors in Israel. Credit: Alex Levac

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