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Haaretz - Tuesday 7 December 2010

Germany okays huge boost in aid plan for Holocaust survivors

Germany to transfer 110 million euros to organizations providing social assistance to survivors, many of whom had prior requests turned down by officials of the Benefit Foundation.

By Orly Vilnai

Next month, Germany will begin transfer of 110 million euros to organizations providing social assistance to Holocaust survivors. Half the money will be distributed to survivors in Israel and the rest to survivors worldwide.

In this photo taken on Nov. 17, 2010, Alex Werber
displays a photo his mother kept of her father,
fourth from right.
Photo by: AP
The money is to be transferred via the Claims Conference, which will pass it on to the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel. The foundation has been involved over the past 16 years in funding nursing care and other medical expenses for survivors here. Its budget, currently NIS 400 million annually, is expected to increase considerably.

This is good news for some 12,000 Israeli Holocaust survivors, many of whom have had prior requests turned down by officials of the Benefit Foundation.

Meir Stolero, 80, who receives a NIS 1,800 monthly survivor's allocation from the Finance Ministry, is entitled to an additional allocation called "a personal grant" from the foundation. This is a one-time reimbursement of up to NIS 4,000 for medical expenses such things as medicines, glasses and hearing aids.

Ten months ago, Stolero submitted his receipts to the foundation, and a committee found him eligible for reimbursement. But the money has not been forthcoming, and Stolero has been told by the foundation that they are waiting for funds to transferred to them by the Finance Ministry.

The foundation's budget is supposed to be funded 60 percent by the Claims Conference, with the remaining 40 percent coming from the treasury. The budget has increased over the last few years while the number of survivors is dwindling. Yet many survivors are still turned down by the foundation, with many dying before they receive the money they deserve.

Yesterday Haaretz carried the story of Holocaust survivor Peppi Steinberg, who applied for reimbursement from the Benefit Foundation almost a year ago. Steinberg died in August without having received the money. Last month, her son received a letter from the foundation expressing sorrow for his loss, but also informing him that her death meant that the money would now not be forthcoming.

Noah Flug, the chairman of the umbrella organization of Holocaust survivors in Israel, was a member of the team that negotiated with Germany on the new allotment. He is pleased with the achievement.

"The chancellor, president and German finance minister told me personally they would not abandon the Holocaust survivors," Flug said. "The finance minister said explicitly they were responsible for us. It is common knowledge that during his last three years, a person consumes more medicine than throughout his whole life. This is the last period. There are fewer survivors still alive, but they have more social and medical problems, and that is what we asked the Germans to help with," he said.

Flug says he is well aware of the Benefit Foundation's deficit and the long time people have to wait for reimbursements. He said he hoped the additional money would expedite the payment to survivors of the money they are owed.
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