Israel Is Waiting for Its Holocaust Survivors to Die

There are three different days committed to remembering the Holocaust, but during the rest of the year, the Israeli government only thinks of Holocaust survivors as a financial burden.

Amos Rubin
Amos Rubin
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Amos Rubin
Amos Rubin

The Chief Rabbinate of Palestine in 1946 declared the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet a "general day of Kaddish" for dead Jews whose gravesites are unknown. The date was traditionally a fast day observed by Jews to commemorate the beginning of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II's siege of Jerusalem. Its modern significance was added not long after the end of World War II, when the horrible scale of the destruction of Europe's Jews – 6 million people, constituting one third of the continent's pre-war Jewish population – became clear. Today, only the members of Israel's national religious Jewish community preserve the tradition. The ultra-Orthodox, as usual, boycott commemorations on the day because of "the Zionists."

On March 3, 1951, Israel's Knesset set aside the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, when the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising broke out (April 19, 1943 in the Gregorian calendar), as Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day. On the eve of the day, all places of entertainment in Israel are closed by law and mourning and commemoration services are held at Israel's national cemetery on Mount Herzl and the museums at Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta'ot (the Ghetto Fighters' Kibbutz), Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak and Nir Galim.

On the other hand, the United Nations declared the day the Red Army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp (January 27, 1945) International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day every year, UN member countries across the globe come together to mourn the tragedy that led to the death of 6 million Jews, 3 million Romani and 1 million genetically "defective" Germans.

That totals three days a year, but what about the other 362 days? The number of concentration camp survivors, anti-Nazi partisans and Jews who hid in forests and Christians' homes now living in Israel is 233,700, according to the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute. Of these individuals, dozens die every day. Apparently, the heartrending stories of 80-to-90-year-olds struggling for the basic means of survival that appear in the media every year do not bother the officials entrusted with their welfare in the Finance Ministry. That these survivors must choose between buying their medicines or food or that they don't have a source of heating in the winter doesn't seem to stop the State of Israel from denying them substantive assistance by relying on a variety of bureaucratic clauses. Israel even pettily denies Holocaust survivors the few benefits they are entitled to, when medical committees alter their disability evaluations in a manipulative way. Thus, a committee determines a Holocaust survivor has a 69 percent level of disability, not 70 percent, so the state can save NIS 500 on the recipient's benefits payment. In practice, the Israeli government is waiting for the Holocaust survivors to die off within 20 years so that it will no longer have to pay their benefits.

In 1953, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed a reparations agreement, entrusting the State of Israel to handle payments to Holocaust survivors. Looking back, you could argue that Ben-Gurion was right to transfer survivors' reparations payments toward strengthening the young State of Israel. Yet it was only decades later that this injustice done to Holocaust survivors – including my parents, Auschwitz survivors Eliyahu and Rachel Rubin – was corrected. Only then did they start receiving reparations payments from the treasury.

Several Israeli banks hold the property of Jews murdered in the Holocaust but create obstacles to prevent their heirs from receiving their due. Several years ago, Haaretz published an estimate that deposits made in Israeli banks in the decades before 1945 are not worth what they should be today. Israeli banks shamelessly benefit from the funds of the dead, those without heirs and even those with them. With respect to the German and Swiss banks that took Holocaust victims money, there is the biblical quote, "Have you murdered and also inherited?" In Israel it is just, "Have you inherited?" It is saddening to see how the Jews who determine government priorities in our country, which was founded on the ruins of the Holocaust and thanks to the tremendous Zionist endeavor, are in practice waiting for Holocaust survivors to die.

The writer was hidden by the Righteous Gentiles Margit and József Strausz in 1944 in Munkács, Hungary (today Mukacheve, Ukraine).

A candle being lit in the Hall of Remembrance at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.Credit: AP

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