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Israel Compensates Holocaust Survivors Ending Bitter Feud

The Israeli government has reached a compensation deal with Holocaust survivors ending a bitter feud. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, many survivors of the Nazi genocide during World War II have also suffered from financial difficulties.

The Israeli government is granting Holocaust survivors an additional monthly stipend of nearly $300. The agreement came after embarrassing revelations that one third of the 240,000 survivors in Israel are living in poverty.

"My aim is to get all the Holocaust survivors above the poverty line and make sure that they live in decency," said Israeli Welfare Minister Yitzhak Herzog.

The agreement ends months of wrangling between elderly survivors and the government. The survivors said the State of Israel, which was supposed to be a refuge for Jews who escaped the Holocaust, was guilty of neglect.

"There are thousands, tens [of] thousands, hundreds [of] thousands that remain poor," said Shmuel Reinish of the Holocaust Survivors Welfare Fund. "So that's a thing that cannot go on any more."

At first, the government offered an additional $20 a month, but that made matters worse because the offer was considered too small. Angry survivors marched through the streets in protest, carrying signs saying, "Sorry we survived."

Reinish said the $20 offer was an insult.

"We decided that the government crossed all the red lines," he said.

Herzog, the welfare minister, denied rejects that argument.

"One should not perceive the state of Israel as kind of alienating itself from the Holocaust survivors because it's absolutely, unequivocally not true," he said.

But with the new compensation package, both sides are mending fences. Noah Flug, who heads the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors, welcomed the agreement.

"I hope that people who have been in concentration camps, in ghettos, that they can live in dignity," said Flug.

Finally, he said, the State of Israel is taking responsibility.