A New York agency providing services to Holocaust survivors announced Monday that elderly survivors in 31 countries will receive $15 million in assistance this year from German insurance companies.
The $15 million represents the first of 10 annual disbursements from $132 million in humanitarian funds secured by the International Commission on Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims. The Commission's Dale Franklin says the fund has both symbolic and practical value.
"Of course it doesn't do justice to what happened in the Holocaust. I think what it says is that we have not forgotten the holocaust survivor community. We want to use whatever resources are available to make their lives better," says Mr. Franklin. "It would be a tragedy if so many of these people, who have wonderful lives, spent their last days in poverty, worrying about where their food and medical supplies are coming from."
The German Foundation for Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future was initially set up to compensate the estimated one million survivors who had been forced to work for the Nazis during World War II. The foundation is providing the funds as part of its October 2002 agreement to pay Holocaust-era insurance claims, and give humanitarian aid.
The funds, which include contributions by private companies and the German government, will be used to provide home care and other services to Jewish Holocaust survivors.
Mr. Franklin says that, because so many of the now elderly survivors are in failing health, a vast network of international organizations has been assembled to distribute the money as quickly as possible. "This is, of course a large sum of money that will go to tremendously good causes. Those who are aging, many who are dying. We have any number of organizations throughout the world that are anxious to receive the funds because they already know who needs them," he said. "These are grass roots organizations that deal with survivors on a daily basis, so they know what the needs are. They already have names in mind of some of the most needy people."
The International Commission on Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims was founded to collect on insurance policies purchased by Jewish families affected by the Holocaust. Typically, documentation proving the existence of these policies no longer exists.
Of the initial $15 million, $6 million will go to survivors in Israel, and $2.4 million to those in the United States. The rest will go to survivors in 29 other nations, mostly in the former Soviet Union and Western Europe.