900 Holocaust Survivors Died of COVID-19 in Israel Last Year

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Medical workers in a coronavirus ward in an Israeli hospital, September 2020. The subjects have no connection to the content of the article.
Medical workers in a coronavirus ward in an Israeli hospital, September 2020. The subjects have no connection to the content of the article.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The coronavirus pandemic claimed the lives of 900 Holocaust survivors in Israel in 2020, with a total of 5,300 survivors testing positive for COVID-19, statistics released by Israel’s Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority on Tuesday showed.

The authority is the government department that oversees compensation for victims of the genocide committed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. It published these statistics on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. According to its data, victims of coronavirus made up five percent of the 17,000 survivors who died during the year. 

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The impact of the virus on survivors has been in the spotlight in Israel since the early days of the pandemic. The first Israeli killed by the virus, Aryeh Even of Jerusalem, 88, died on March 21. Even was a Hungarian Jew whose father died in the Mauthausen concentration cam. He survived the Nazis by hiding in a cellar with his mother and siblings, later immigrating to Israel in 1949. 

For many survivors, whose age puts them in the high risk category, the experience of confinement during the pandemic has reawakened traumatic childhood memories of hiding from the Nazis.  

The survivors’ authority said the total number of Holocaust survivors in Israel stood at 179,600 at the end of the year, a number that included 3,000 people who were recognized as survivors in 2020. 

The COVID death rate among Holocaust survivors was 17%, almost exactly the same percentage of Israelis in the general population in the same age group – 75 and older – who died throughout the year.

The authority was set up to compensate the survivors who lived through imprisonment in camps or ghettos, or were in hiding from the Nazis during the Holocaust.

While most Israeli survivors are European-born, the authority has also recognized the status of former Iraqi, Moroccan and Algerian residents, who suffered under a short‐lived Nazi‐allied regime, in the case of Iraq, and Nazi‐allied Vichy France in the case of the other two. and  More than a third of Israel’s Holocaust survivors did not immigrate soon after the Holocaust, but rather came to Israel as part of a wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s.

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