KIEV, Ukraine (Sep. 10)
Some Jews here say they may never benefit from a fund established two years ago to compensate Ukrainians who suffered under the Nazis.
In 1994, the Fund for Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation was created to distribute about $270 million from Germany to Ukrainian citizens — not just Jews — who had suffered under the German occupation during World War II.
Jewish activists say the fund’s guidelines make it difficult, if not impossible, for Jews, particularly those who were in hiding during the war, to obtain the funds.
The compensation is distributed in one-time payments of about $600. Similar funds exist in Russia and Belarus.
Most Holocaust survivors in the former Soviet Union live in Ukraine, but Jews make up less than 1 percent of fund beneficiaries. Beneficiaries of the fund include survivors of ghettos and concentration camps, as well as the so-called Ostarbeitern, or “eastern workers,” the thousands of Slavs who were forced to work in Germany during the war on the Soviet front.
“At the beginning, two testimonies from the witnesses were enough to claim the compensation,” said Klara Vinokur, head of the Kiev organization of Holocaust survivors.
“Later on, the fund began to demand archival documents proving that there had been a ghetto in this particular town and the applicant’s name was on the list of its inmates.”
Vinokur added, “In many cases such lists could have been destroyed along with the ghetto itself.”
But Jews who were in hiding during the Nazi occupation are not eligible for the compensation unless they were at some point in a ghetto or concentration camp.
Boris Levit, 71, is among those Jews.
He went into hiding a day before the German troops marched into his hometown, Zhitomir. His entire family was killed there in September 1941.
Despite his suffering, he is not eligible to receive the payment, according to fund policy.
In the Kiev organization of Holocaust survivors, “we have people who escaped from Babi Yar or other places of mass executions,” said Vinokur, adding that these Jews also have been denied fund payments.
In Russia, however, Jews who were in hiding are eligible for the one-time payment.
Mikhail Chlenov, president of the Va’ad, the Jewish Federation of Russia, said fund officials should review the policy toward Jews who were in hiding in the German-occupied Soviet territories.
Officials of both the Russian and Ukrainian funds say they are ready to set up special commissions to examine the issue of Jews who were in hiding.
Tatyana Zhvanetskaya, head of the Moscow Association of Holocaust Survivors, said there was some hope that the funds’ policies would be revised.