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Auschwitz concentration camp Photo: AP
Auschwitz concentration camp Photo: AP
 
 

Lawsuit: Recognize 2nd generation as Shoah victims

Children of survivors plan to file class action against German government, demanding that it recognize traumas caused by childhood in shadow of Holocaust

Reuven Weiss
Published: 04.13.07, 12:20 / Israel News

More than 60 years after the Holocaust, the children of the survivors are demanding compensation from the German government for their suffering.

 

All this time they kept silent. Growing in the shadow of post-traumatic Holocaust surviving parents, they suffered from violence, over-protection and unrealistic expectations. Some of them succeeded and even became famous, while others collapsed.

 

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Following an initiative to file a joint class action to second generation members from Israel, Germany and the United States, the Fisher Fund is holding talks with senior German officials in a bid to receive financing for mental treatments required by some second-generation Holocaust survivors.

 

The Fisher Fund was established seven years ago by Attorney Gideon Fisher, whose parents Mali and Yosef were Holocaust survivors. The fund, an independent body, grants scholarships and assists in places where other organizations are unable to help.

 

About a year and a half ago, after receiving a large number of requests, Attorney Fisher established a legal department in his office to deal with lawsuits filed by hundreds of Holocaust survivors and their children.

 

Many of the second-generation survivors told Fisher about the difficulties they were forced to experience as children to Holocaust survivors, difficulties which affect their lives to this day, and due to which they are in need of ongoing mental treatment.

 

This brought upon the initiative to form a class action against the German government, demanding that it bear the costs of the psychological and psychiatric treatment many of the survivors' children are forced to undergo due to their childhood in the shadow of the Holocaust.

 

According to data provided by the Amcha association, which offers mental and social support to Holocaust survivors and second generation members, about 4 percent of the 350,000 children of Shoah survivors living in Israel (about 14,000 people) are in need of mental treatment.

 

Amcha currently treats 878 members of the second generation who finance the treatment themselves. On average, each patient receives 80 hours of treatment a year, at the cost of NIS 300 (about $73.75) per hour.

 

According to the association, the annual cost of mental treatment for the second generation Holocaust survivors living in Israel amounts to approximately NIS 34 million ($8.35 million).

 

'We heard shocking stories'

Based on these data, a draft lawsuit was formed for members of the second generation along with law offices in Germany and the United States.

 

"The distorted connection developed between members of the second generation and their parents has definitely delayed their independent development and even caused them, in retrospect, to experience significant regression in their relations with other people, as well as severe mental and psychological damage," according to the draft lawsuit.

 

"Therefore, it is time to make Germany – who was the one to set in motion the wheels of the Nazi machine for the destruction of the Jewish people, and the one responsible for the death of 6 million Jews, and who in its criminal acts violated the human rights of the Jewish people and its descendants – to recognize the fact that these actions caused and still cause unbearable mental and psychological damage to members of the second generation," the lawsuit continued.

 

"While working on the lawsuit, we heard shocking stories," Attorney Fisher said Thursday. "We heard of people who put their shoes next to the door every night preparing to escape, or of people who wake up every morning at 4 am and look for their father under the bed.

 

"This is what they went through during their entire childhood. Every night their father went under the bed, hid there and begged them not to take him away, and they had to take him out of their and convince him that everything was okay."

 

According to the plan, the Fisher Fund will establish a daughter-fund to collect the funds received from Germany, in addition to funds collected from Israeli donors, which will be designated for two goals: Mental treatment for second generation members, and a photographed documentation of the second generation and its difficult childhood experiences.

 

"We saw before our eyes the Dutch model, in which the German government finances two weekly treatments for second generation member for their entire life," explained Baruch Mazor, CEO of the Fisher Fund, who is also a son of Holocaust survivors.

 

"The second generation members don’t want compensation from the Germans; they only want to be entitled for treatment which will get them back on their feet," he said.

 

Second generation members in need of assistance, who would like to join the move, as well as organizations wishing to help the second generation members, can receive information by calling 972-77-200-9798.

 

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