50,000 Holocaust Survivors in Israel Live in Poverty

Over 1,000 die every month; new statistics paint stark picture of their lives.

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A Holocaust survivor stands in front of entrance of the former concentration camp during a ceremony to mark the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, January 27, 2014.
A Holocaust survivor stands in front of entrance of the former concentration camp during a ceremony to mark the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, January 27, 2014.Credit: Reuters
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More than one out of four Holocaust survivors in Israel — some 50,000 out of 193,000 — live in poverty. More than 1,000 survivors die every month in this country, the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel said Wednesday, painting a stark picture of how these aged people live.

Publishing its annual statistics in advance of Monday’s Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Day, the foundation said 36 percent of Holocaust survivors live alone and must make do on their own. This year the foundation had 212,000 calls for assistance from survivors; 86 percent of those Holocaust survivors who contact the foundation for financial help must live on less than NIS 5,000 per month, while 66 percent must live on up to only NIS 3,000 per month.

Two-thirds of the survivors in Israel are women, and the average age of survivors overall is 85. Some 13,000 of them die every year — more than 1,000 every month.

The foundation conducted a survey of the condition of Holocaust survivors in early April, finding that half of them say they feel lonely, one in every five has had to do without food or medicine over the past two years due to financial difficulty, and 60 percent are worried about what their situation will be in the future. Forty-three percent said they feared the Holocaust could be repeated. Also, 55 percent of the survivors reported that they were not satisfied with the way the government has dealt with them. Sixty-one percent said that they felt no improvement or change in the government’s treatment of survivors over the past year.

The part of the survey conducted among the general public found that roughly half of the general public believes Holocaust survivors live in poverty. Only 10 percent said the situation of most Holocaust survivors was good or reasonable. Eighty-four percent said the state and government did not treat them well. Fifty-six percent said there had been no change in the past year in the survivors’ treatment. In a statistic similar to that of the survivors themselves, 40 percent of the public said they feared the Holocaust could recur.

Avi Dichter, chairman of the foundation, said at a press conference that it was about to complete a five-year plan to provide the required resources to survivors over the next few years. “The Finance Ministry’s plan to allocate a billion shekels (about $285 million) to the survivors is only the first swallow that we hope will herald the arrival of spring,” Dichter said. “We are hopeful that the money will be given to the survivors as quickly and efficiently as possible. We do not want the survivors to die honorably but rather to live the last years of their lives with dignity. The task of the foundation, the government and Israeli society is a national mission of the first rank, and we have an obligation to ensure the survivors’ welfare until their last day.”

Roni Klinsky, the foundation’s CEO, said, “The increase in the survivors’ needs will continue until 2015, and this is a critical time in which the foundation predicts a higher number of calls for assistance. The window of opportunity of the next five years is closing, and now we must get everyone connected with this issue on board to work so that the Holocaust survivors who live in Israel can live with dignity.”

Holocaust survivors demonstrate in Tel Aviv to protest their dismal living conditions, July 25, 2013.Credit: Nir Kafri

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