Gov't Okays Increased Payment for Holocaust Survivors

Olmert, finance minister approve panel recommendation to increase stipends for 40,000 individuals.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Finance Minister Roni Bar-On have decided to accept the recommendation of a state commission of inquiry to increase funding for Holocaust survivors. Some 40,000 individuals currently receive such stipends from the state.

The committee, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, recommended that the stipend be augmented to 75% of the pension the German government currently pays survivors. The payments will be retroactive to January 1, 2008. The recommendation will be brought to the cabinet at its weekly meeting on Sunday. It will raise government assistance to the survivors by some NIS 250 million.

Dorner told Haaretz on Monday that she had been informed of the decision by the director general of the Prime Minister's Office, Ra'anan Dinur.

She expressed satisfaction and described the move as "a good act on the part of the government."

Prior to the decision, officials from the Prime Minister's Office, the treasury, the Justice Ministry, the Social Affairs Ministry and the Pensioner Affairs Ministry worked together to examine the implications of the move. Last week, the government decided to cut ministry budgets across the board with a view, in part, to finding funding for survivors. Following preliminary discussions, Dinur headed a meeting with the director general of the Social Affairs Ministry, Nahum Itzkowitz, and Avi Bitzur, director general of the Pensioner Affairs Ministry.

Olmert and Bar-On also decided to set up a joint committee for the government and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany that would ensure that the claims money is directed to the Holocaust victims.

The state commission of inquiry, which was set up at the behest of the Knesset State Control Committee, also recommended that a social services basket be provided to the survivors and that ways be found to improve the functioning of the Finance Ministry bureau that deals with the rehabilitation of the physically handicapped. Currently more than 1,000 Holocaust survivors turn to the bureau for assistance every day.