Court says Holocaust Claims Conference misled survivors
Tel-Aviv District Court rules in favor of Shoah surviving claimants who were rejected for restitution money by US-based Holocaust Claims Committee due to misguided criteria. Controversial documentary reveals committee’s misconduct, claims it is holding onto $1 billion of restitution money
The Tel-Aviv District Court has accepted 1,365 out of the 1,915 claims submitted by the Children of War Organization, awarding Holocaust survivors with NIS 13.5 million (approximately $4.2 million ) as compensation for not having received restitution from the Holocaust Claims Conference.
Each claimant shall receive NIS 14,500 ($4,531), while 550 claims were rejected due to obsolescence.
In their ruling, the judges determined that the claims committee has misled the claimants over the years, causing them to lose their well-deserved reparation money. Despite the appeals made by the committee’s attorneys, the court has not issued an injunction so far.
Moreover, a harsh argument broke out during the hearing between the prosecutor, Attorney Yoram Sheftel and the defense representative, Attorney Ofir Blum, during which Sheftel said while speaking of himself in third person: “Sheftel has one a case you have been battling your entire life, so take off your hat, loser.”
Six years ago, the Children of War Organization filed a claim of over NIS 19 million ($5,938) against the claims committee, which is the organization responsible for the transfer of funds to Holocaust survivors. Children of War filed the claim on behalf of 1,915 survivors who have yet to receive restitution from Germany.
The Holocaust Claims Conference was founded 55 years ago in order to act as a communication channel between Germany and the Holocaust survivors. The US-based committee was given a mandate by the then-Prime-Minister, David Ben-Gurion, to operate without in-depth supervision by the Israeli government.
The claimants said that the compensation will help them end their lives in dignity, since some of them have been living below the poverty line. The lawsuit submitted by attorneys Yoram Sheftel and Doron Beckerman said that the claims committee made up its own eligibility criteria that are not part of the German government’s decision.
The criteria were set by the committee for men under 65 and women under 60. The survivors were forced to prove they have been suffering 80% debilitation or 50% loss of workability, directly stemming from Nazi persecution. In addition, the committee decided had decided that each applicant is only entitled to make one submission request.
Thus, a Holocaust survivor who submitted a request by the age of 65 and has been rejected, will not be able to re-apply, even though he is essentially eligible for restitution.
The Holocaust Claims Conference's conduct has recently made headlines following the documentary film “Morals of Restitution – The Fight Goes On,” which harshly criticized the committee for holding onto survivors’ funds and assets. The chairman of the State Control Committee announced an urgent meeting following the film and many Knesset members were shocked by the allegations made in it.
Filmmakers Orly Vilnai-Federbush and Guy Meroz claimed that as of today, the committee is holding onto at least $1 billon, and that many of the funds transferred by the committee are given to organizations whose activity is not directly linked to aiding Holocaust survivors.