Cutting through the bullshit.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Over and over

The disgraceful treatment of Holocaust survivors in Israel has come up a couple of times in posts here. As if determined to prove that not all Law professors have the intellect of a sparrow and the ethical uprightness of a cockroach, Thane Rosenbaum, a professor of law at New York’s Fordham University documents in yesterday’s NY Times how the survivors are getting shafted in the ‘Azadistan’.

After 60 years, Holocaust survivors are inching toward extinction. According to Ira Sheskin, director of the Jewish Demography Project at the University of Miami, fewer than 900,000 remain, residing primarily in the United States, Israel and the former Soviet Union. Most are in their 80s and 90s. Unless immediate measures are taken, many of those who survived the Nazi evil will soon die without a proper measure of dignity.

According to Dr. Sheskin’s data, more than 87,000 American Holocaust survivors — roughly half the American total — qualify as poor, meaning they have annual incomes below $15,000. The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of the American Jewish Federations, determined that 25 percent of the American survivors live at or below the official federal poverty line. (The poverty figure in New York City is even higher.) Many are without sufficient food, shelter, heat, health care, medicine, dentures, eyeglasses, even hearing aids.

Conditions worldwide are similar. It’s a sad twist that the teenagers who mastered the art of survival so long ago have been forced, in their old age, to call on their survival instincts once again.

He proceeds to document a number of initiatives that have recovered billionsof dollars on behalf of and in the name of the survivors and cynically hoarded or directed elsewhere. Only 4% of the famous Swiss bank settlement went to survivors in the US. A recent federal case in NY let Italian insurer, Generali get away with ‘more than $2 billion in unjust enrichment’.

The Jewish Claims Conference, an organization established in the 1950s to recover and distribute Jewish property, has assets under its care estimated at $1.3 billion to $3 billion, which includes a vast inventory of cash, real estate and artwork. Despite the urgency of human suffering, the conference insists that it cannot respond to the unmet needs of Holocaust survivors.

Among the JCC’s $32 million 2006 “research, documentation and education” expenditure was a payment of $700,000 to a friend of the organization’s president who can’t remember the nature of his ‘consultancy’.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is about to receive ‘electronic copies of Germany’s Bad Arolsen archives, which hold 50 million documents pertaining to the fate of more than 17.5 million victims’, but refuse to put them online where the survivors who might benefit from the information they contain can access them. Real scholars, apparently, can afford to visit the museum.

Rosenbaum concludes with a set of minimal recommendations. I fear, however, that few will survive long enough to see them implemented. With 87,000 living in poverty in the US alone, and another 80,000 in Israel, some must be dying every day. And every Holocaust survivor who dies in poverty disgraces those who proclaim ‘Never again!’ as they screw the victims over and over.


  1. Very powerful post.

    Zionism is unable to live up to its image, as a safe place for Jews.

  2. Delighted you thought so, Renegade. Watch this space!