World War II ended 75 years ago. Today, about 240,000 elderly survivors of Nazi Germany’s genocide live in Israel, North America, Russia, and Western Europe. Yesterday, German officials agreed to provide over half a billion dollars to them. The funds will help with struggles that have arisen due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) negotiates with Germany each year. The talks address payments to survivors and increasing the number of people receiving funds. Since 1952, the German government has paid more than $80 billion in Holocaust damages.
This year, the German government agreed to recognize 27 “open ghettos” in Bulgaria and Romania. That recognition will allow survivors in those places to receive payments.
Because many survivors were deprived of proper nutrition when they were young, they suffer from medical issues today. Many live isolated lives—having lost their entire families during the war. In addition, many have mental issues resulting from trauma caused by Nazi oppression. Without the grace, love, mercy, and renewal of Jesus Christ, it is difficult to imagine how anyone who suffered so intensely could ever fully recover!
Greg Schneider is executive vice president of the Claims Conference. “There’s this kind of standard response for survivors,” he says, “that ‘I’ve been through worse and if I survived the Holocaust . . . I’ll get through this.’” But he says that “if you probe deeper, you understand the depths of trauma that still [reside].”
Plus, many survivors live on the poverty line. The costs of masks and protective gear, grocery delivery, and other pandemic-related expenses can be crushing.
“You’re teetering between making it every month,” Schneider says, “having to decide between food, medicine, and rent.”
The Claims Conference has already issued $4.3 million for survivor help. This helps cover in-home care, food, medicine, travel to doctors, and programs to ease social loneliness.
The new funds will help Jews who aren’t already receiving money from Germany. These are mostly people who fled the Nazis and stayed in hiding during the war. Each survivor will receive two payments of $1,400 over the next two years.
Schneider says about 50% of Holocaust survivors in the United States live in Brooklyn, New York. These people were hard-hit when New York was the center of the American virus outbreak. Now numbers are looking worse in Israel and other places. Schneider calls the situation “a rolling calamity.” The hardship moves around the globe with the effects of the virus.
(This picture of a group of Jewish children was taken just after liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet army in January 1945. AP Photo)