After Five Decades of Neglect, Disabled Holocaust Survivor Says Treasury Owes Her NIS 700,000

Survivor appealing 2010 decision by a treasury body to compensate her with a lump sum of NIS 120,980 instead of the NIS 906,720 her family says she is due.

For 49 years, the Finance Ministry ignored a medical document in the file of an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor showing she suffers from back pain as a result of Nazi persecution and now the treasury owes her more than NIS 700,000 in disability benefits, her family says.

Sarah Levkovitz, who was born in Slovakia and worked in Nazi labor camps as a teen, is appealing the November 2010 decision by a treasury body to compensate her with a lump sum of NIS 120,980 instead of the NIS 906,720 her family says she is due. The suit is being heard at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court.

Sarah Levkovitz - Daniel Bar-on - 03012012
Daniel Bar-on

"All these years the authorities completely ignored the document that describes my mother's medical problems and what she is supposed to get because of them," said Levkovitz's son Moshe.

"To this day there are apparently people in the authority who think my mother doesn't deserve the payment, and after 50 years of ignoring it, they're continuing to drag things out and not paying my mother what she deserves.

They're simply waiting for the survivors to die out."

The Finance Ministry said it could not comment on an issue being heard in the courts.

Though the appeals committee of the treasury's Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority did not compel the treasury to pay more than the lump sum, it did agree with the Levkovitz family that the authority had acted improperly in ignoring the document "and worse still, for intentionally concealing it, according to the petitioner."

"Moreover, the authority even denied the existence of the document and claimed that the petitioner had never complained about back problems," the appeals committee said.

An accountant retained by the Levkovitz family based the NIS 906,720 figure on Sarah Levkovitz's current National Insurance Institute monthly payment of NIS 7,556 a month, which has been adjusted to account for the back pain described in the document that had been ignored for decades.

Over the years, Levkovitz filed repeated complaints about back pain with the Bureau for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, which was responsible for Holocaust survivors before the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority took over.

But her complaints were dismissed because, she was told, she did not complain about back pain when she was examined by a doctor belonging to the medical committee that examined Holocaust survivors.

But in 2010 Moshe Levkovitz looked through his mother's file and found evidence that, though she barely knew any Hebrew when she arrived in the country, she had complained about back pain to the examining physician.

The document in her file, which was dated June 1961 and signed by a Dr. Kahanovitz, showed that the physician had determined that she suffered from back pain as a result of her experiences in the labor camp.

Despite that original finding, Levkovitz was given the standard NII payments allotted to all Holocaust survivors: 25 percent disability plus an additional 1.65 percent, and received NIS 2,000 a month.

In 1995 she was recognized as a needy Holocaust survivor and her monthly payment was doubled. After the document was brought to light in 2010, she was granted payment commensurate with a greater level of disability, and has been receiving NIS 7,556 a month since.

The treasury's rights authority agreed to pay NIS 120,980 in retroactive compensation for the previous 10 years and nominal compensation for the preceding decades. That nominal amount includes payment of a single agora for

1961-62 and seven agorot for five months in 1974.