Jewish Group to Give Survivors Millions to Meet Their Basic Needs

After reviewing its formulas for distributing money collected from the return of Jewish properties in the former East Germany, the Claims Conference has opted for the status quo.

Last week, the organization’s planning committee voted to continue giving 80 percent of the funds it collects to humanitarian needs for Holocaust survivors and 20 percent to Holocaust education programs, such as museums, memorials and research.

Of the money allocated for each of these two categories, 60 percent will go toward programs in Israel and 40 percent toward efforts in the Diaspora.

The money comes from the sale of heirless Jewish properties in the former East Germany.

In the past five years, the organization has allocated more than $250 million, which came from Germany as compensation for the Nazi-era looting of Jewish property. It expects to collect and distribute about $450 million more in the coming years.

At the May 31 session, the committee agreed that 80 percent of the allocations will go for humanitarian programs — including home care and food packages – - for Holocaust survivors.

“The consensus was that it is important that the Claims Conference seek to fund the lifetime needs of Holocaust survivors,” said Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Claims Conference.

“Demographics show there will be a significant number of Nazi victims alive over the next 10 to 15 years,” he added.

The Conference estimates that there are 950,000 victims of Nazi persecution still living. That estimate accounts for all people whose lives were directly affected by the Nazis, and not just those sent to concentration camps or ghettos.

Before the May 31 session, the Jewish Agency for Israel had expressed concern that the proportion of funds distributed in Israel, as well as the total amount spent on Holocaust education, might be cut.

When no such cuts were made, the agency issued a press release declaring “success” for Sallai Meridor, the Jewish Agency’s chairman, and saying the decision to keep the status quo came “in response to Meridor’s demand.”

However, others involved in the process said the Jewish Agency was overplaying the level of controversy about the issue.

“They were pushing through an open door,” said Michael Schneider, executive vice president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and a member of the Claims Conference planning committee. “There was pretty much no controversy about it.”

The committee’s recommendations are expected to be accepted when the Claims Conference’s board of directors meets in July.

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