RIGA, Latvia (Nov. 18)
Some of the recipients were less than enthusiastic.
“The sum is insulting,” said 75-year-old Yevgenia Barowska. “It should be a monthly pension.”
Barowska was among the 82 Latvian Holocaust survivors who received the first checks from a Swiss fund for needy survivors.
While she criticized the checks for $400 distributed at a ceremony Tuesday in the Latvian capital of Riga, other elderly recipients voiced satisfaction.
Margers Vestermanis, 72, said that although the payments were a symbolic gesture, the “Swiss financial organizations today are recognizing their historical responsibility.”
The money “is historical justice,” said Alexander Bergman, chairman of the Latvian Jewish Society of Former Prisoners of Ghettos and Concentration Camps.
The ceremony at the Jewish community center building in Riga ended months of speculation and questions over who would receive payments and when they would be disbursed by the Holocaust Memorial Fund.
The fund was established in February by Switzerland’s three largest banks amid allegations that the Swiss banks were hoarding the wealth of Holocaust victims.
The fund’s board agreed in July to earmark an $11 million initial distribution to Jewish Holocaust survivors in eastern and central Europe, each of whom is slated to get $1,000.
The Latvian survivors will get additional checks of $600, according to fund officials.
Nearly all of the survivors live on monthly pensions of about $80. Each of them has different plans for the $400 they received.
Barowska said she would use the money to pay four months rent.
Vestermanis plans to use the money to obtain proper health care for the “first time in my life.”
And Riva Shefere, who received the first check at Tuesday’s ceremony, said she had intended to buy a washing machine, “but unfortunately this sum is not enough.”