Holocaust survivor (illustration)
Holocaust survivor (illustration)Flash 90

A substantial number of the 500,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide are suffering from poverty and need urgent help to live a dignified life in their last years, an advisor to the US secretary of state said Wednesday.

"It's really unacceptable that those people who in their youth suffered so grievously should have to live out their declining years in deprivation, isolation and poverty," Stuart Eizenstat, special advisor on Holocaust issues to John Kerry told AFP.

"In New York City alone, of the 60,000 survivors, 50 percent are in that state. In Israel about a third are, and in the former Soviet Union countries upwards of 85-90 percent are in poverty," he said on the sidelines of a conference in Prague.

"All the surveys indicate that substantial percentages of those (survivors) are living in poverty or near poverty," Eizenstat added.

The two-day "Living in Dignity" conference was organized by the European Shoah Legacy Institute as a follow-up to the Terezin declaration signed by 47 countries and the EU in the Czech Republic in 2009.

Named after a Czech wartime ghetto, the declaration urged the restitution of Jewish assets stolen by the Nazis during World War II and social aid for poor Holocaust survivors.

Each signatory should name a government official to help survivors handle programs available to them, while the EU should appoint a person to tackle anti-Semitism, Holocaust issues and the implementation of the declaration, said Eizenstat.

He added that France, Germany and other countries had sold heirless Jewish properties confiscated by the Nazis to raise funds for social benefits.

Austria and Poland have programs to pay pensions to survivors who suffered on their territories but live abroad, while Germany is running a four-year $1 billion (920-million-euro) home care program for survivors.