Holocaust Survivors – Poverty, Dignity & Recognition

Thousands of “open ghetto” Holocaust survivors have been newly recognized, with financial compensation of about $800 million

By Yossi Aloni | | Topics: Holocaust Reparations, Holocaust Survivors
Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

The Israel Ministry of Social Equality recently worked with the German government to gain recognition and monetary compensation for a new category of Holocaust survivors.

Those now recognized are some 18,000 who lived in “open ghettos” during World War II in dozens of cities across Romania and Bulgaria. This is in addition to hundreds of thousands of other Holocaust survivors that Germany has recognized in the past, many of whom have received at least a token of financial compensation from the German government.

The thousands of Jews who lived in the “open ghettos” did not experience a stay in Nazi concentration camps. However, they did live under the restrictions of the Nazi regime and its collaborators. And of course many suffered antisemitic attacks and harassment.

In 2019, the German government recognized about 8,000 survivors in 20 cities across Romania. They received compensation collectively amounting to about $320 million.

In 2020, an additional 7,000 survivors were recognized in 19 cities in Romania and 15 cities in Bulgaria. These received compensation in the cumulative amount of about $273 million.

In 2021, about 3,000 Jews from Bucharest were recognized, with a cumulative compensation of about $192 million.

At this time the Israel Ministry of Social Equality is (in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) conducting discussions with the German government for the recognition of additional individuals in 16 cities in Romania. These contacts are based on information found in recent months by historians from Yad Vashem’s Holocaust Memorial Museum and Institute in Jerusalem.

In addition to the recognition of the “open ghetto survivors,” further contacts with the German government have led to additional funds for previously recognized Holocaust survivors from the German government. These payments helped improve the economic situation of about 4,000 survivors eligible for the pension with a cumulative amount of $83 million, which was received in two installments, between the years 2019-2021.

In addition to the joint activities with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during 2021 the Ministry of Social Equality approved grants for the “Center for Holocaust Survivors’ Organizations in Israel.” The goal is to obtain compensation, reparations or other payments for bodily injuries, pain and suffering caused by Nazi persecution. In 2021, the ministry also approved increased grants for 23 non-profit organizations engaged in commemorating the Holocaust.

Significant reparations have been approved for eligible survivors, but it may be too late for most as the number of survivors is dwindling every day. Of the 165,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel today, about 110,000 received an annual grant of only NIS 4,000 (~$1300) as of 2021.

Minister of Social Equality Meirav Cohen (Yesh Atid):

We invest a lot of effort all year round, in bringing our Holocaust survivors peace and quiet. And time is working against us. Every day about 40 survivors leave us and pass away. This makes our mission most urgent – to allow the survivors to live with the honor they deserve in their last years. In parallel with the recognition by the [German] government… in the latest state budget we approved an additional NIS 300 million for poor Holocaust survivors… About 70% of this group are entitled to an income support pension. We raised it by about NIS 500 a month, with an investment of NIS 1.5 billion in the budget base. We will continue to work harder to end the shame and stain of Israeli governments for generations – poverty among Holocaust survivors, and to commemorate the Holocaust in Israel and around the world.”

Director General of the Ministry of Social Equality Meir Bing:

We at the Ministry of Social Equality do everything we can to ensure the Holocaust survivors can grow old with dignity. And the Corona plague has given us another reminder of just how much the Holocaust survivors need our help. Together with the Holocaust Survivors ‘Rights Authority we will continue to work to improve the living conditions of Holocaust survivors, and to expand their entitlement to various forms of compensation, out of a deep commitment to all Holocaust survivors in Israel.”

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