Claims Conference secures Homecare increase
The AJR has received a copy of a letter from Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat to the Claims Conference regarding the latest agreements with the German government to provide social and welfare services and programmes for Holocaust refugees and survivors.
The text of the letter follows:
The Claims Conference has successfully negotiated an agreement with the German government which, taken with the amount previously agreed upon, will provide approximately $1 billion over the four-year-period, 2014- 2017, for homecare for Jewish Nazi victims, with the annual amount increasing every year through 2017.
The amount the German government will provide in 2015 – €205 million ($266 million) – is an increase of 45 percent over 2014. The government will also provide €210 million ($273 million) for 2016 and €215 million ($280 million) for 2017. The previously agreed-upon amount for 2014 is approximately €142 million ($185 million), an increase of €12 million ($15 million) over 2013 funding. Thus, taken together, this historic agreement is a commitment of €772 million or approximately $1 billion for the four years 2014 - 2017. The German government also committed to review annually the adequacy of these funding levels.
This unprecedented amount of funding means that we can give Nazi victims around the world the aid that they desperately need as they grow more frail. Further, that the agreement encompasses funding through 2017 underscores the German government’s ongoing commitment to Holocaust survivors. It is all the more impressive because it comes at a time of budget austerity in Germany.
This agreement for historic levels of homecare funding for Nazi victims is the result of many months of a sustained, concerted effort by our negotiating delegation and by Claims Conference staff. The German government agreed to provide this funding after reviewing extensive detailed material on the numbers and distribution of Holocaust victims, poverty and disability rates, governmental supports and costs of service as well as projections of future needs of Holocaust victims, which was prepared by your organization.
In advance of the meeting of our full delegation, there were many working group level meetings between Claims Conference staff and that of the Finance Ministry. In addition, Roman Kent met with key German government officials helping to solidify this agreement.
I wanted to personally let you know of my gratitude to Greg Schneider for having the vision and drive to organize this campaign, which has culminated in this agreement. Greg has made it a priority to gather detailed information and data on the growing plight of aging Nazi victims and present it to the German government in an effective and compelling fashion in order to demonstrate their increasing needs to the German government. His dedication and professionalism are above and beyond what could be expected, and he made it clear throughout this process that he was absolutely committed to obtaining the funding to which the Finance Ministry ultimately agreed. Greg’s passion and integrity are well appreciated by our German government interlocutors. The lives of tens of thousands of Holocaust victims will be made easier in their old age due to Greg’s skill and vision.
Karen Heilig of the Claims Conference staff also deserves special recognition.
Several other significant agreements were reached at our Jerusalem negotiations:
Under the current regulations governing Claims Conference pension programs, those survivors who were in “closed” ghettos, surrounded by a wall, are entitled to receive payments if incarceration in a ghetto is the basis for applying. There are, however, thousands of survivors who were in ghettos that were not closed, such as in Czernowitz, Romania and many places in Bulgaria, among other Nazi-allied countries. These Jews lived under conditions similar to closed ghettos: under curfew; deprived of their jobs; subject to persecution measures; wore the yellow star; received reduced food rations; and lived in constant fear of deportation.
Resulting from the negotiations, the German government agreed to expand the eligibility criteria of the two pension programs, the Article 2 Fund and the Central and Eastern European Fund, as of January 1, 2014, for those Jews who lived under the conditions noted above. A specific list of 300 “open ghettos” was agreed upon. The Claims Conference estimates that, as result, an additional 2,000 to 3,000 Holocaust survivors will become eligible for a compensation pension. This will mean increased funding by the German government of some 7 to 11 million Euros per year. Further, the Claims Conference has the right to submit the names of additional ghettos, together with historical documentation, for BMF review for eligibility.
The Claims Conference has been advocating for several years for recognition of the special needs of survivors who were children at the time of the Holocaust. We placed a special emphasis on it this year, led by Colette Avital of our negotiating team. In the negotiations last Thursday, the German government committed to take a “sympathetic” approach toward the issue in discussions set for next fall. The Claims Conference and German government will be discussing the unique traumas and late-onset symptoms associated with children who endured the Holocaust. We hope the special conference on child survivors scheduled for Berlin in the end of August will provide special impetus for our efforts to provide assistance to child survivors.
Income Limit Raised
Applicants for monthly pensions from the Article 2 Fund are allowed a higher annual income ($25,000, previously $16,000), as of July 1, 2013, to meet the income eligibility requirement. This figure had not been changed since 1995, and will make many more people eligible for Article 2 Fund pensions.
As you know, for the first time, negotiations with the German Finance Ministry were held in Israel. It was a terrific opportunity for the German delegation to see first-hand how the compensation they provide is life-changing for individual Holocaust survivors. We took the German delegation into the homes of Holocaust survivors who are receiving homecare; we visited Senior Day Center and met with a group of survivors; and we visited a soup kitchen in which Holocaust survivors are receiving a hot daily meal - all of these programs are funded by the Claims Conference. Immediately preceding the negotiations, our full delegations spent nearly three hours visiting in Yad Vashem, with our survivors sharing their personal experiences. The negotiations themselves lasted nearly 5 hours, without a break, and were very intensive.
The historic work of the Claims Conference still continues, and I am proud to contribute what I can to help Holocaust victims. We are seeing Germany’s continued commitment to fulfill its historic obligation to Nazi victims. This ensures that Holocaust survivors, now in their final years, can be confident that we are endeavoring to help them live in dignity, after their early life was filled with indescribable tragedy and trauma.
The impassioned involvement of our negotiating delegation – Holocaust survivor leaders Roman Kent, Ben Helfgott, Marian Turski and Uri Chanoch; Amb. Reuven Merhav, Rabbi Andrew Baker and Amb. Colette Avital; and Claims Conference Executive Vice President Greg Schneider and staff Karen Heilig, Christiane Reeh, and Konrad Matschke – play a significant role in convincing Germany of its moral responsibility to aid elderly Holocaust survivors.