NEW YORK, Feb. 11 (JTA) – Manfred Klafter, a Dutch
Holocaust survivor who founded a leading survivor’s support group in
Israel, has died.
He was 78. He died as a result of injuries sustained in a skiing accident in Switzerland. An international industrial marketing consultant in the Netherlands, Klafter served as an officer in the Dutch army during World War II. He helped rescue Jews from Germany by smuggling them across the Dutch border.
Captured in 1944, he was imprisoned in the infamous Scheveningen prison. Later, he was transported to the Westerbork concentration camp, and escaped the night before the majority of the camp’s prisoners were killed. Klafter moved to Israel in 1965 and was disturbed by the lack of support services for Holocaust survivors. “In the early days of the state, immigrants were expected to put the past behind them and work to build up the Jewish homeland,” he once explained. But as the years passed, the trauma Holocaust survivors had experienced resurfaced. Many could not cope with the long-suppressed memories and, as a result, had dysfunctional family relationships. In effort to aid survivors, Klafter helped found Elah, the Dutch survivor’s organization and Israel’s first support service for Holocaust survivors. In 1987, he established AMCHA as a grassroots organization for all survivors and their children. It now provides therapy, counseling, documentation and social activities for thousands of survivors and their families through five branches across Israel. Now considered experts on post traumatic stress, AMCHA’s mental health professionals recently helped organize support services for survivors of genocide in Rwanda.