A Holocaust-era yellow Star of David badge, known as the Judenstern

Holocaust survivors demand government allow them to 'live with dignity'

On the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day, dozens of elderly survivors demand leaders follow through on promises and take responsibility for tens of thousands of them facing poverty

Hadar Gil-Ad |
Published: 04.28.22, 14:19
Nineteen Holocaust survivors fired off a scathing letter to government ministries earlier this week — ahead of Israel's national Holocaust Remembrance Day — demanding the country's leaders take action to improve their quality of life.
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  • Israel is currently home to roughly 161,000 survivors, about a quarter of whom struggle to make ends meet while some even live in outright squalor despite promises from successive governments to amend the situation.
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    A jacket belonging to the late Polish-born Holocaust survivor Mordechai Fuchs
    A jacket belonging to the late Polish-born Holocaust survivor Mordechai Fuchs
    A Holocaust-era yellow Star of David badge, known as the Judenstern
    (Photo: AFP)
    "I have come to the conclusion that this issue is of no interest to anyone," said 80-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Barak, one of the authors of the letter.
    "Remembrance Day comes and all sorts of dignitaries, public representatives, say how much they owe to the people who built this country. But an hour later, everything is forgotten. About twenty survivors signed this letter, but it represents many more."
    The survivors’ letter features a list of demands that would improve the living quality of all remaining survivors in Israel: Reimbursements for those traveling to mental health care institutions, subsidized transportation to survivors' clubs, a simple reimbursement mechanism for medicines, and an increase to the meager monthly stipend the survivors are entitled to.
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    הדירה של ניצול השואה
    הדירה של ניצול השואה
    The apartment of a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor living in Jerusalem
    In the letter — addressed to Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen and the Holocaust Survivors' Rights Authority — the survivors stated: "We the survivors have learned over the years to suffer quietly and await answers from the authorities.”
    “This year, however, we want to see results. In our twilight years, let us grow old with dignity,” wrote the letter’s authors, who also called on state institutions to "find our brothers across the country suffering from cold, hunger and disease. Those who have no one to voice their plight."
    For 81-year-old Holocaust survivor Zeev Hertz, also one of the letter’s signees, this is not the first appeal to the state. "We decided to write the letter because… the State of Israel does not behave toward us as we deserve.”
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    עצרת הזדהות עם ניצולי השואה בכיכר הבימה
    עצרת הזדהות עם ניצולי השואה בכיכר הבימה
    Demonstrators in Tel Aviv protesting the lack of aid to Holocaust survivors during the coronavirus pandemic
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    "Survivors die every day that passes, those who are still alive deserve to live with dignity. We appeal to anyone who can help us.”
    According to the Foundation for the Welfare of Holocaust Victims, out of 161,000 survivors, about a quarter live in poverty. The report further states that about 15,000 survivors passed away over the past year.
    "According to the [report], in about a decade, there will be no more survivors," the authors wrote in their letter.
    "To mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, officers and elected officials will be interviewed again and praise themselves for how committed they are to survivors and improving their living conditions, but the next day everything will be forgotten."
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    מירב כהן
    מירב כהן
    Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen
    (Photo: Moshe Mizrahi)
    Minister Cohen said in response to the letter, "eradication of poverty is a national goal, the most urgent and important one. Every case of a person who does not grow old with dignity is a personal failure for me. That is why I work to improve conditions 24/7 all year round.
    We have raised money from around the world and the Israeli government to provide a targeted response to the population of poor Holocaust survivors, and we will continue this trend to provide them with both funds and the services they require."
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