(JTA) – In the aftermath of the discovery of a $42.5 million fraud at the Claims Conference, a group of Holocaust survivors has called for the appointment of an ombudsman.
The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants called on the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany to hire an ombudsman acceptable to the survivor community "to advocate on behalf of and represent the interest of the survivors."
Former and current employees of the Claims Conference were among 17 people charged last week by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York with participating in the fraud, in which claimants falsified information to receive payments from the Hardship Fund. The fund was established by the German government to give one-time payments of approximately $3,600 to those who fled the Nazis as they moved east through Germany.
In all, 4,957 one-time payments totaling $18 million were obtained from the Hardship Fund through the alleged fraud. Another $24.5 million went to 658 fraudulent pension claims.
The alleged fraud, which dates back to the mid-1990s, remained hidden so long because Claims Conference staffers at various levels conspired to hide and manage the false claims.