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Germany to double Holocaust victims' aged care fund

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Germany to double Holocaust victims' aged care fund
Photo: DPA
15:11 CET+01:00
Germany is to double the amount of money it gives to Jewish Holocaust survivors for elderly home care, bringing the total to €110 million next year, as a wave of former victims reaches very old age.

A spokesman for the Finance Ministry confirmed to The Local on Tuesday that the ministry had decided “as a humanitarian gesture” to provide the extra money to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the New York-based organisation that distributes compensation money for Holocaust survivors.

Even with many Holocaust survivors dying each year, the need for home care – in which an elderly person is looked after by a carer at their own house rather than moving into a nursing home – would keep rising until 2014, the claims conference said, according to the Associated Press. After that, the number of survivors dying will outnumber those becoming frail enough to need care.

The funding boost for 2011 is expected to raise the number of needy survivors receiving subsidised care to about 70,000 from the present 58,000 worldwide.

The claims conference was rocked last month by the revelation that current and former employees were involved in a long-running fraud in which $42 million of money meant for survivors was siphoned off via phony claims. Some 17 people were arrested in connection with the scheme.

“The Federal Finance Ministry has, as a humanitarian gesture agreed – pending approval by the Bundestag – to increase the grant for the programme of the Jewish Claims Conference for Holocaust survivors who need care to €110 million for 2011,” a spokesman told The Local via an emailed statement.

“The increase will meet the strongly rising demand for home care of very old survivors. This additional aid supplements a programme operated for years by the JCC, through which the victims of the Holocaust receive home care in old age.”

Greg Schneider, the claims conference's executive vice president, said that nursing homes could trigger memories for survivors of being forced from their homes and crowded into group living, according to AP.

“Especially for Holocaust survivors, there are emotional triggers that are set off by institutionalisation that can be devastating,” he said.

The claims conference administers compensation money from the German government and channels it to victims, as well as recovering property taken from Jews during the Nazi era. The sale of such properties has provided the conference with an important part of its funds but this source has dwindled around the same time as many victims are reaching very old age.

“I view this as a statement from the German government about their commitment to facing their history and providing support for survivors,” Schneider said.

United States prosecutors allege that more than 5,500 fraudulent claims for Holocaust reparations — many containing altered birth dates and phony stories of suffering — were approved by the claims conference through the fraud revealed last month. The conference said last month that no Holocaust victims were deprived on funds because of the crime and pledged its full co-operation in bringing the alleged perpetrators to justice.

“We are outraged that individuals would steal money intended for survivors of history's worst crime to enrich themselves,” said Julius Berman, the claims conference's chairman.

“It is an affront to human decency. As the victim of this complex scheme, the claims conference is grateful for the tremendous work of the FBI in investigating it. We hope all those responsible are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

The Local/dw

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