Holocaust survivors around the world will receive $564 million in social welfare services in 2019 following negotiations last month between the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the German government. This is an $87 million increase from last year.
The annual negotiations took place at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum June 14 and 15, said Washington attorney Stuart Eizenstat, a former ambassador to the European Union and one of the lead negotiators at the conference.
Other results of the negotiations included a $200 million increase in funding for home care and pensions. And the required length of time child Holocaust survivors must have lived under a false identity to be eligible for child survivor payments was reduced from six to four months.
“We are now entering the final phase of the life of survivors, therefore there was a sense of urgency to make sure the 400,000 remaining survivors lived out their final years in dignity,” Eizenstat said.
The Claims Conference began negotiating with the German government in 1952 as a source of reparations for victims of the Holocaust. More than $70 billion has been awarded to 800,000 Holocaust victims in 66 years, according to the Claims Conference website.
Some $5 million of the 2019 funds will be allocated to multiple agencies in the Washington area, including the Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA), which serves about 440 Holocaust survivors. Eizenstat said that before the negotiations, he and other Claims Conference representatives took German officials on a tour of home care facilities in Rockville and Baltimore to show them the needs of aging Holocaust survivors.
He said this year’s German delegation was entirely new, due to gains in last year’s elections by the nationalist Alternative for Germany Party.
“As a result of the new coalition, we had a new finance minister named Olaf Scholz who didn’t know anything about our issue, so this was a real concern,” Eizenstat said.
The negotiations lasted six hours, but ultimately were successful, he said. Because this German coalition was younger than past years, he said, they needed an appreciation of the history of World War II.
“We said to them, this may be the last German government and the last American administration that deal with survivors in a meaningful way,” he said. “I’m negotiating with second and third generations of Germans who weren’t even born during the war, and I’m impressed that after all these years they feel an obligation to do justice.”