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Growing Needs Among Holocaust Survivors Topic of Senate Hearing

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) commends Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, for focusing on the health and welfare needs of Holocaust victims by holding a committee hearing today entitled, “Aging in Comfort: Assessing the Special Needs of America’s Holocaust Survivors.” As the primary funder of assistance to Holocaust victims worldwide, the Claims Conference believes that any public attention focused on this issue can only serve to help these heroes of the Jewish people. The hearing focused on the situation of Jewish victims of Nazism in the U.S. and measures being taken, and that might be taken, to assist them.

In 2014, the Claims Conference will allocate approximately $314 million to assist Nazi victims in 47 countries, of which $60 million will be allocated for the needs of Jewish victims of Nazism in the U.S. The assistance includes homecare, hunger relief, winter supplies, emergency cash assistance, medical care, transportation, psychological care, and social opportunities for isolated survivors. However, even the dramatic increase in funding that the Claims Conference has been able to secure in recent years is still not enough to meet the growing need among aging survivors. The organization welcomed the announcement last month by Vice President Joe Biden of several initiatives by the Obama administration to attempt to procure additional funding for services and increase the assistance given to survivors throughout the country.

Elihu Kover, Vice President, Nazi Victim Services at Selfhelp Community Services in New York, spoke of the various factors that affect Nazi victims in their old age. “In addition to the myriad problems associated with so-called ‘normal aging,’ many survivors have numerous physical and psychological problems directly attributable to their experiences during the Holocaust. Prolonged periods of starvation, exposure to severe weather conditions with inadequate clothing, and experiencing and witnessing unspeakable atrocities take a severe toll on body and mind. And many of these problems only surface in old age, having been hidden during their working years when the survivors struggled and made a new life for themselves as productive citizens of this country. Further exacerbating their situation, more than 50% of the survivors living in New York City can be classified as “very poor” or “near poor” under Federal guidelines,” said Mr. Kover.

Mr. Kover noted the Claims Conference’s vital support for Holocaust victims. “We, like many organizations throughout the United States and the world, are fortunate to receive substantial funding from the Claims Conference, which has enabled us to expand our services significantly over the past years. With their funding we have opened new service sites which have made our services more accessible, and we have been able to provide increased critical home care services. Their support is unprecedented, and provides a literal lifeline for thousands of survivors.”

Selfhelp, the largest agency in the New York area assisting Holocaust victims, will receive more than $8.1 million from the Claims Conference in 2014.

The Claims Conference funds more than 100 Jewish organizations, primarily Jewish Family and Children’s Service agencies, in more than 20 U.S. states, to provide social welfare services for Nazi victims. More than four in five victims reside in just five U.S. states: New York, California, Florida, New Jersey, and Illinois.

Since the Claims Conference began funding social services for survivors in 1995, the organization has worked with a network of partner organizations and agencies around the country to identify and address the specific needs of Holocaust victims. The Claims Conference was able to begin helping these aging survivors through its initiative in recovering unclaimed Jewish property in the former East Germany and using the proceeds to allocate funds to its local partner agencies. In 2004, negotiations began to result in a small amount of funding from the German government, primarily for homecare; in recent years, that amount has grown exponentially, through negotiations, to the point where the German government funding has become the largest source of Claims Conference grants. The Claims Conference also allocates additional amounts from a variety of restitution-related and other sources, such as the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

With these allocations, the Claims Conference ensures that Holocaust victims, who were abandoned by the world in their youth, know that they are remembered and cared for in their old age. Because the Claims Conference has infused funding into local agencies specifically for the care of Holocaust survivors, these victims can receive specialized attention and significantly more care than would be available without Claims Conference involvement.

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