However, while these Holocaust survivors are waging a struggle in Israel for a monthly stipend of a few hundred shekels, it turns out the Conference for Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which is managing the assets and reparation funds for survivors, has in its possession a large amount of money that is not getting to survivors in Israel.
These grave accusations regarding the Claims Conference's handling of reparation funds are detailed in a rough draft of a report commissioned by the Jewish Agency and the minister for pensioners' affairs, Rafi Eitan.
The findings indicate that the Claims Conference possesses an estimated $1 billion of liquid assets in addition to other material holdings all around the world that are worth an unknown amount.
In the four years that are chronicled in the report, the Conference has held on to the bulk of the money that has accumulated and has not distributed it to those who are entitled to it. The report goes on to say that in 2004, the Claims Conference shelved out an estimated $26.7 million on managerial expenditures. Oversight on these expenditures is nearly impossible since they are not individually accounted for.
'Money must go to Shoah victims'The Conference, despite being a public organization, does not elaborate on its expenditures or the way it invests or handles the Holocaust survivors' assets. "It is unclear to me," wrote Accountant Bar Lev, who authored the report, "why the Claims Conference holds on to all these assets instead of immediately distributing them to the victims of the Holocaust.
"Naturally, as time passes, it becomes harder to locate people entitled to receive reparation funds. The chance for those entitled to receive this money and to benefit from it is becoming slimmer and simmer."
While Julius Berman is the current chairman of the Claims Conference's board of directors, the real force behind the Conference is the president, Gideon Taylor, whose salary is estimated to be more than $50,000 a month.
Knesset Member Collete Avital (Labor), the former head of the Knesset committee for the Holocaust survivors, was not surprised by the facts presented in report. "In some sense, the State of Israel is responsible for creating this Frankenstein, the Claims Conference. With only 10% of the money the Conference holds in its possession, it is possible to solve all the problems of poverty that Holocaust survivors have in Israel."
Zeev Bielski, the Jewish Agency's director-general, said, "The Report shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that there exists large sums of money that are not being used and it makes no sense to keep this money in bank accounts instead of distributing it to those who deserve it after all they have suffered."
Danny Adino Ababa contributed to the report