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Holocaust Survivors in Poverty as Agency Sits on Their Assets

Agency in charge of restitution of pre-Israel property of Holocaust victims currently has billions in assets that are not being claimed.
By Kochava Rozenbaum
First Publish: 9/15/2013, 11:00 AM

Holocaust survivors
Holocaust survivors
Israel news photo: Flash 90

An agency called the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets currently has billions of shekels in assets that are not being claimed which could help the remaining Holocaust survivors to live "with dignity."

Haaretz reported the claim that the agency holds large sums of pre-state Israel property that once belonged to Jews who perished in the Holocaust and that "could now be put to use to provide financial aid to those Holocaust survivors in need." 

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, has expressed his concern over the dire situation of Israeli Holocaust survivors. Lapid's father, Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, was a survivor of the Holocaust and Lapid has used his new party’s platform to address the subject of poverty stricken survivors.

Just two months ago, the Finance Minister signed an order increasing government stipends paid to Holocaust survivors. On Lapid's Facebook page, he expressed the hope that no Holocaust survivors would be spending the holidays or the Sabbath alone. Nevertheless, Lapid has been on the other end of the wrath of Israel’s Holocaust survivors. 

In April, Dora Roth was among other fellow Holocaust survivors who were upset about Lapid's order to define survivors’ needs before creating a budget to distribute to them. During a meeting in the Knesset, following Lapid's statements, Roth questioned, “How can it be that there are Holocaust survivors living without heat? It’s a disgrace. Let us die with dignity.”

“What have you done with the money?" Roth continued to question, wondering as to why the financial distress of survivors has not been relieved even after an official  group was to have dealt with the issue.

With all of the money that the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets has, the issue can be resolved, according to Haaretz's report. The agency itself claims that it does not decide who gets the money. Rather, it is decided by the government, initially the Finance Ministry, as well as the National Insurance Institute.

The agency’s website reveals about 3,000 pages of assets, featuring unclaimed cash, real estate, artwork and financial securities. Some 67,000 items are listed. After returning about NIS 85 million in assets and paying out another NIS 500 million to survivors in assistance, it is still in charge of about a billion shekels in assets, most of which remains unclaimed.

“We are not a Holocaust survivor assistance organization,” said Ofir Porat, the agency’s legal adviser. “We give them money, but our role is to address a historical injustice. For 70 years, the State of Israel has pointed an accusing finger at countries around the world regarding the assets that Jews left behind there, but didn’t check what was happening in its own backyard. The agency was established as a last accord of its kind in the world.”

For the survivors living without heat during the winter and without food on their table, the fear that the government will not deliver on assurances of state support continues to grow.