PRAGUE (Dec. 23)
At least 500 Holocaust survivors in the Czech Republic have died since the German government agreed earlier this year to establish a fund to aid victims of Nazism.
The dwindling number of Jewish and other survivors is behind the anger voiced by Czech President Vaclav Havel and local Jewish leaders regarding Germany’s decision to postpone the fund’s launching.
Germany said last week that the Fund for the Future, which was outlined in a Czech-German declaration signed earlier this year, would not be operational until at least the end of January 1998. It was originally scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 1998.
German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said the postponement was due to the political upheaval in the Czech Republic — the Czech government collapsed Nov. 30, a new prime minister was named Dec. 16 and the country is preparing for early elections.
But the head of the Czech Jewish community places the blame for the delay squarely on German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
“I am disgusted by Kohl’s political behavior,” said Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic. “He just doesn’t seem to be aware of the situation. Victims of Nazism are dying every day,” referring to the dwindling number of Czech survivors.
The German Embassy here refused to comment.
Germany will give about $76 million — and the Czech government will contribute about $12.9 million — to the fund, which will finance community projects for survivors, but is not expected to provide individual compensation.
There are now about 8,000 Czech survivors, 2,000 of whom are Jewish.