All the organizations dealing with Holocaust survivors in Israel will convene later this month for the first time in a bid to cooperate and coordinate their activities.
Until now the dozens of organizations tasked with looking after Holocaust survivors and victims’ heirs have been operating independently, each with its own list of survivors and criteria for assistance.
This has resulted in red-tape chaos, in which many needy, sick, elderly survivors are denied their rights.
“Those who come to the meeting must put their ego aside and focus on the Holocaust survivors’ welfare,” says Rony Kalinsky, general manager of the Foundation for the Benefit of the Holocaust Victims in Israel, who initiated the meeting set for April 27.
Kalinsky intends to set up a roundtable of organizations and offices so they can cross-check their lists and streamline activities “after years of lack of coordination and inefficiency.”
More than 10 central organizations have been set up over the years to look after Holocaust survivors in Israel and dozens of others are supposed to assist. Yet throughout Israel’s history there has never been one updated list of Holocaust survivors and their needs.
Some of the major organizations are the Finance Ministry’s Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority, which is in charge of survivors who immigrated to Israel before the compensation agreement with Germany; the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which passes compensation fees from Germany to survivors who immigrated after the agreement; a group that takes care of survivors who receive payments directly from Germany; the Foundation For the Benefit of the Holocaust Victims, which helps with nursing care and funding personal needs; the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets, the Ministry of Senior Citizen Affairs’ center for implementing Holocaust survivors rights and several others.
Last week Haaretz published in Hebrew the story of a Holocaust survivor living in appalling squalor, unaware that for 13 years the Claims Conference had been depositing an allowance for her into a bank account she knew nothing of. Hundreds of thousands of shekels that could have made her life a lot easier had accumulated in her account.
Over the years she appealed to several organizations dealing with Holocaust survivors, but they all rejected her, saying she did not fill the criteria. Having no joint name list, they did not know she had fulfilled the Claims Conference’s criteria a long time ago and was receiving a monthly allowance.
The Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority, for example, refuses to open its list to other organizations, citing legal problems.
“No one will put me in prison for making one tidy list and disclosing data for this purpose,” says Elazar Stern, chairman of the Foundation for the Benefit of the Holocaust Victims in Israel.