In recent years it happens more often: a courier enters the Israeli embassy in Berlin carrying a letter from an old German citizen who recently died. In the letter he declares his wish that his estate be donated to the State of Israel. Embassy officials estimate that sometimes these are people who suffer from a guilty conscience over Germany's dark past.
This phenomenon has been going on for years with increasing frequency and this year sees a peak in donations, Yedioth Ahronot has learned.
About once a month a courier arrives at the embassy. He hands the employees a letter sent via registered mail from a recently deceased old German citizen. The letter, also signed by the deceased's attorney, states that the deceased has decided to leave his money, home or jewels (in some cases even gold bars) to Israel.
The letters do not reveal the donors' motives but the embassy estimates that these are most likely Germans who witnessed the Holocaust and harbored feelings of guilt for decades.
On their deathbed they probably wanted to clear their conscience by bequeathing their estate to Israel, even though some of them have families.
It's possible that some of the donors had ties to the Nazi regime but this hypothesis is unfounded.
Thus far, a total of 200 donors aged 80-100 have been recorded. The largest single donation is NIS 6 million. "We think these people's conscience was burdened with the mass extermination of the Jews and at the end of their days they decided to make amends by giving their estate to Israel," said an embassy official.
In some cases the donor declares his decision in his lifetime, in others it is revealed only at the reading of the will. An inquiry shows that some of the donors are devout Christians who decided to transfer their funds to the Holy Land on religious grounds. The list includes Jewish donors, probably childless, who decided to transfer their estate to Israel.
The Israeli embassy hands the donations over to the General State Custodian at the Ministry of Justice in Jerusalem. Government sources say that lately there has been a rise in donations but this can easily be explained by the higher mortality rates of the donors due to old age.
Tova Tzimuki contributed to this report