By BERNIE BELLAN Berdina Shorten has lived in Winnipeg since coming here with her family from the Netherlands in 1953. Although Berdina was Jewish by ancestry (going back to her great-grandmother), she hadn’t been raised Jewish. It was only several years after having come to Canada – and having got married, that Berdina – and her late husband, Ken Shorten, both converted to Judaism.
Typically, the stories we publish in this paper about people’s wartime experiences have to do with the Holocaust. Those stories are all certainly horrendous – and almost always riveting, but when I happened to be talking to Berdina about a totally unrelated subject (the renewal of her subscription) and the conversation got around to her wartime experiences, I said to her that I wanted to write about her story.
I should also mention that I had heard Berdina speak at the Shaarey Zedek several years ago, but at that time I didn’t take any notes. (I can’t recall exactly why I was there or how I happened to be in the room when Berdina told her story, but I remember thinking that this would make a great story for the paper some day.)
In any event, here’s a recounting of the first part of Berdina’s story, based on a phone interview that I conducted with her on February .
First, a little history is needed, in order to understand the context for what happened to Berdina and her family.
The German army had invaded Poland in September 1939. After consolidating its gains there, Germany turned its attention to Western Europe in April 1940, first by invading Norway and Denmark, then launching an attack through Belgium into that country, also the Netherlands and Luxembourg (despite those three countries having adopted positions of neutrality).
The German invasion of The Netherlands began on May 10, 1943.
That is where Berdina’s story picks up. But first, a little background on her family history.
Berdina’s father, Theodore (or Theo, as he was known) was a master leather cutter. His “family was Protestant, but his mother was Catholic, so he was raised Catholic,” she said.
As Berdina explained, “his family had come from France in 1610. He used to say the reason his family didn’t go to the New World was ‘no pretty cruise directors, no first class cabins, no air conditioning.’ The real reason was they were Huguenots and they weren’t allowed to go to the New World – unless they went to England and went with the Protestants,” e.g., the Pilgrims on the Mayflower.)
Berdina’s mother (Anna), however, “was born Jewish” but, as Berdina noted, “the family never practiced Judaism. What happened was her mother was born Jewish to a Dutch girl and a German Rhine skipper. Her father died when she was four years old, so her mother went back to Holland, but her family wouldn’t accept her back because she had married someone who was not Jewish. She raised her child (Berdina’s grandmother) with the help of local charities and working in a grocery store.
“When she met my great-grandfather, he was more Catholic than the Pope, so she never practiced her religion and she raised her children as Catholic – but they were actually Jewish – by Jewish law.
“It wasn’t until I was 12 – and I had been sent to Catholic school. I was always challenging the nuns. I wanted to check out Judaism, but I wasn’t allowed.
I asked Berdina whether “she had an awareness that she was Jewish?”
She said she did. “I always knew. My mother knew also, but they hid it.”
I asked then how she knew about her Jewish heritage?
She answered: “My relatives. I heard conversations when I was a child.”
While, Her mother “didn’t practice any religion, her “father did. He’d go to Mass once in a while,” Berdina noted.
When the Germans invaded the Netherlands, Berdina’s father was in the Dutch army, fighting on the “Grebenberg (or the Grebbe line, the main line of Dutch defence)– where they held the Germans back for many days.” (Actually, it wasn’t many days at all – only three. The Dutch were badly equipped and totally outmaneuvered by the Germans.)
Berdina continued her story: “My father was a fantastic shot…But the Queen (Wilhelmina) capitulated. They were bombing the hell out of Rotterdam (May 14, 1940).” The Netherlands surrendered the next day.
Berdina’s father was taken prisoner and sent to work as a forced labourer (in Germany): “So my father was taken and put into a factory. He was a master leather cutter – making shoes.”
Berdina’s family lived very close to the German border with the Netherlands. Thus, even though Theo was forced to work in Germany, it was only a three-hour walk for him to return to his hometown – and his family. It seems somewhat strange to think of someone who’s kept as a forced labourer – which Berdina described as “slave labour”, yet who was allowed to return home on weekends, as she explained:
He was allowed to go home (where mother lived) once a week, Berdina said. “He was given one egg a week, so he would take that egg with him, so my brother (Corey, who was born four years before Berdina) would be able to have at least a little bit of protein in his diet.”
All the while Theodore though, was part of the Dutch underground– meeting with other members of the underground surreptitiously while he was in forced labour for the Germans.
Berdina told this story about one harrowing brush with danger her father had while he was in the resistance: “A story he told was that he was going to a meeting (of the underground) with a friend. They were caught by a young German soldier and the soldier” pointed his rifle at them and “told them to put their hands up. Somehow my father was able to overtake this young soldier.
“His friend said ‘We have to run.’ My father said, ‘No, we can’t. If we run and they find him (the soldier), they’ll kill ten people on this street.“ (That was the retribution the Germans typically exacted, Berdina explained.)
“So my father was able to get a hold of some liquor, put it over the kid’s mouth, then took his guns and papers to the nearest police station, which was controlled by the Germans, and said: ‘One of your soldiers was drunk and we took his guns and papers before he hurt someone.’
“My father was given a pass to go anywhere he wanted that night.”
I asked Berdina if she knew when it was that her father fled the factory for good and ended up going totally “underground” with the Dutch Resistance, but she said she didn’t know exactly when that happened.
When the Canadian army reached Holland in September 1944, anyone who had been in the Dutch army was able to join the Canadian army, Berdina explained, so her father ended up joining the Canadian army.
“When the Dutch army reorganized, he went back to the Dutch army.”
Her father was uncomfortable talking about what he did during the war, Berdina noted, but according to her brother, Theo had once told him that he “had killed at least one German that he knew of (a sniper) and probably more, but he wasn’t sure.”
I asked Berdina whether there were any other memories from the war that she wanted to talk about.
She said there was a young girl – only 14, in her town, “who was the first girl (in Berdina’s home town) to get pregnant by a German soldier.”(That soldier died in a plane crash coming back from North Africa, Berdina added.) “She was also the first girl to get pregnant by a Canadian soldier.
“After the war the people in that community were going to get her and shave her head and send her packing.
“My mother said to my father: ‘That little girl is still only 15 years old. She’s still walking around in Bobby socks and skipping with a skipping rope. Theo (Berdina’s father), could you please do something to stop those people from hurting her?’
“My father went out on to the street and he saw about 50 people coming for the girl. He stopped them.”
In 1953, Berdina, along with her parents and three brothers (two of whom were born after the end of the Second World War), came to Canada.
“My father started to work as leather cutter in the Canada West shoe factory,” Berdina explained.
“Maitland Steinkopf hired him. Eventually my father started to work in St. Boniface Hospital; he’d had a year’s medical training in Edinborough after the war – so he started to work in the hospital, in the x-ray department.
“He worked four hours a night doing piece work for Maitland. He made more money doing that than he did in the hospital.”
I was curious to know more about Maitland Steinkopf and his connection to the shoe business. I knew that Steinkopf was a very successful businessman who also played a leading role in the development of the Centennial Concert Hall, as well as being a prominent Conservative politician and cabinet minister, but other than that I didn’t know much about him.
Berdina said to me that Steinkopf’s success in the shoe manufacturing business was a result of his decision to go to Minneapolis at one point and come back with the Canadian rights to a line of shoes called “Hush Puppies”. That reminded me of another famous decision made by a local Jewish businessman – Samuel Cohen, who decided to begin importing transistor radios made by a company called Sony.
Turning to Berdina’s decision to become Jewish, here is how she explained how that came about:
“My late husband, Ken Shorten (whom I incorrectly referred to as Frank in my previous article), came from an Irish family – that originally came to Canada in 1690, and they farmed in the McCreary area.
“He worked in Eatons – and I worked in Eatons as well. That’s where I met him and we got married.
“Well, he was Protestant and I had been raised in a Catholic environment. We decided that we weren’t going to let the difference in our faiths have a negative effect on us, so we just stuck to ourselves when it came to the religious part.
“But that didn’t work for me and it didn’t work for him and I always knew about my Jewish heritage, so I said to him one day: ‘You know, I’d like to learn more about Judaism; it’s part of my heritage.’ And he said: ‘Me, too.’
“He had some very good Jewish friends at the time (who were all in the NDP). One of them was Cy Gonick, another was Harry Shafransky. He got to know quite a few Jewish politicians. He liked their ethics, liked their values, and so we started to look into Judaism.
“We went to see Rabbi Nesis and (the late) Rabbi Berkal, and we studied with them for two years, and then made the conversion.”
Interestingly, Berdina said that she also spoke with (the late) Rabbi Weizman, who told her that “You can’t convert – you’re already Jewish”.
“But, I said to him, ‘It’s my decision. It’s my journey. I want to do the process.’
“We had two children that we had adopted before we decided to convert – and we brought them in with us.”
I asked when this all happened?
Berdina said the conversion process went from 1973-75.
“We were officially converted in May of ’75,” she said, “and then we were married in the rabbi’s office again.”
“I sang in the Shaarey Zedek choir for 36 years,” Berdina added, “and my son, Theodore, sang in the choir for 20 years…and both kids had their bar and bat mitzvah together.”
“It was the best decision I ever made in my life,” Berdina observed. “It completed me as a human being. I finally fit – because I used to question those nuns. I must have been a real pain in the tuch.”
I asked, “Do you have relatives remaining in Holland?”
Berdina answered: “Yes, I have many.”
I asked, “Are any of them Jewish?”
She answered, “I have one cousin who recognizes himself as Jewish – and that’s it.”
I said to Berdina that what she had told me about her Jewish ancestry and her family’s subsequent conversion to Christianity, it jives with what I had read about how commonplace it was for Jews to have become Christians. I said that I recalled hearing from the late Rabbi Rappaport that only about one-quarter of all Jews in Europe remained Jewish through the years. The rest either converted willingly or by force.
During the course of our conversation, Berdina told me many more stories about her wartime experiences in the Netherlands, all of which were fascinating. Since she was only two years old by war’s end, naturally the stories she tells are one that have been recounted to her by others, but they are all worth retelling.
One that stood out for me in particular was about a Jewish doctor who was kept hidden by his Dutch housekeeper, unbeknownst to anyone else in the town. According to Berdina, when German soldiers came to the house looking for the doctor in 1940, the housekeeper said to them: “I kicked him out long ago when I knew you would be coming. He was miserable to work for and he never paid me enough.”
All through the war that housekeeper was ostracized by her fellow townspeople, as the doctor was universally loved. As Berdina told it, when the town was liberated by Canadian soldiers in 1944, the doctor emerged from the basement – where he had been kept hidden the entire period of occupation by the housekeeper.
Berdina is a great storyteller and when I asked her whether she’d be willing to tell her story to other audiences – as I had heard her do several years ago at the Shaarey Zedek, she readily agreed. If a day comes when Berdina will be able to tell her story to a new audience, I’ll be sure to post something in this paper.
Coming Soon: 5 New Online Slots from Award-Winning Providers
Meta: Here are some of the world’s best new online slot machines that are coming soon to several fully licensed & regulated online casinos.
As the festive season fast approaches, there are lots of new online slot machines to look forward to from various market-leading, multi-award-winning online casino game development studios and software providers.
If you live in Canada and want to be one of the first online casino players to try out some of these hotly anticipated new online slots, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s dive straight in to reveal the names of several eagerly awaited new slots.
Top new online slots coming soon
Instead of listing all 100+ new online slots that are expected to arrive at some point over the coming weeks, here are just a handful of the most talked-about new slots that will soon be arriving at various fully licensed and regulated iGaming sites like the official ComeOn online casino.
You will be able to launch these new slots instantly in your web browser, and you will be able to play them in the real money mode and free play practice mode. However, you must be at least 19 if you wish to play them for real money.
Without further ado, the top 5 new online slots to keep an eye out for over the coming weeks are the following:
- Galactic Racers Dream Drop progressive jackpot online slot by Relax Gaming
- Hoop Kings online slot by Booming Games
- Breaking Bad: Cash Collect & Link online slot by Playtech
- Book of Yuletide online slot by Quickspin
- John Hunter Nell ’Antica Roma online slot by Pragmatic Play
There are no official launch dates available for any of these new slots. However, many of these games are likely to have already arrived by the time you are reading these words.
Some of the other upcoming new online slot machines to keep an eye out for in November and December 2023 are Gargantoonz, Sherwood Gold, Viking Runecraft 100 and Mega Don: Feeding Frenzy from Play’n GO, Finn and the Candy Spin, Elk Hunter and Gem Crush from NetEnt, and Jester’s Riches from Booming Games.
Others include Gold Hit: O’Reilly’s Charms, Hold Hit & Link JP Bacon & Co., Hercules Rules, Silent Samurai: Mega Cash Collect, and Lunar Link: Sky King, which are all from Playtech.
What are the latest slots I can play today?
If you can’t wait for any of these new slots to arrive and want to try out some of the latest online slots that are available to play today, then you may like to try Gold Trio: Sinbad’s Riches online slot by Ash Gaming (a Playtech subsidiary company), Megaways Bushido Princess online slot by Relax Gaming, and Big Bad Wolf: Pigs of Steel online slot by Quickspin.
Other suggestions include Area Cash Thor by Area Vegas and Games Global, Megaways: Duel of the Dead by Relax Gaming, Nile Fortune by Pragmatic Play, Win-O-RamaXL Extended by Relax Gaming, Juiced: Duomax online by Yggdrasil Gaming, and Candy Paradise by Just for the Win Studios and Games Global, to name just a few.
When playing online slots or any other casino games in the real money mode, remember to stay within your budget, take regular breaks, never chase your losses, and, where possible, take advantage of the ‘safer gambling tools’ for a safer and more enjoyable time.
Alan Guberman: from epilepsy to pancakes in 50 years
By GERRY POSNER Some individuals have had to learn an entirely different field in life while winding down from their main line of work. Well, welcome Alan Guberman who is the poster child for this kind of challenge. Hard as it is to believe, Alan was a prominent neurologist and then later in life, restaurant entrepreneur.
For those of you who can go back a distance, the Guberman name might be readily recognizable for its connection to the famous Original Pancake House restaurant on Pembina Highway. If that is where you directed your memory, you are on the right path. Allan is the son of Wally Guberman, who opened the first pancake house with his brother Monty in 1958.
Alan and his sister, Joanne, grew up in the south end of Winnipeg. After he finished high school at Kelvin and obtained his BSc at the University of Manitoba, Alan did what was uncommon back in the 1960s, when he went away and obtained his MD at McGill University in 1970. After three post-graduate years at McGill, he did his three- year neurology residency in St. Louis at Washington University and then a year of epilepsy studies in Marseille, France.
Alan returned to settle in Ottawa where he spent his whole career running the epilepsy programme at the Ottawa Hospital. He served as the Head of the Neurology Division and Director of the residency programme in Neurology for several years. He was involved actively in no fewer than12 clinical trials of antiepileptic drugs starting in 1989 and, in fact, he published extensively on epilepsy and neurology including fifty-three articles and four books. Truth be told, Alan Guberman at his peak was one of the most recognized specialists in Canada, the go-to guy for adult epilepsy in Ottawa and Eastern Quebec and – he could lecture about the subject in both French and English.
One of Guberman’s main focuses was neurology and epilepsy education. He served on several national and international boards related to epilepsy, drug development and gave numerous presentations to general neurologists and paramedical personnel. To top it off, in 2018, well after his retirement in 2012, Alan was awarded the prestigious Wilder Penfield Gold Medal by the Canadian League Against Epilepsy for outstanding lifetime clinical and/or research contributions achievement in epilepsy. Not a lot of Jewish Winnipeggers from Waverley Street, past or present, can make that statement.
Alan and his wife, Denyse Charlebois, a retired teacher, reside in Ottawa. The parent of four boys and five girls, Alan’s son Daniel is himself a busy plastic surgeon, while one of his daughters, Liana, is a dentist who has a thriving office in Ottawa.
Now given that background, it was a major challenge when, in 2004 after his father’s death, Alan, while still working full time as a neurologist and epileptologist (I rarely get a chance to use that word) in Ottawa, entered the pancake arena…quite a bit of a jump. Being the son of Wally, he had spent some time working at the Pancake Houses during his summers growing up in Winnipeg, but he was never involved afterwards. (As an aside, I have a very definite memory of that place because on my very first day at the University of Manitoba in 1960, our car pool stopped and had breakfast there. The pancakes left an indelible impression on me.)
The task of becoming a restaurateur was larger even than the famous Giant Apple Pancake, so well- known by residents and ex-residents of Winnipeg. I wondered about that move and asked Alan about it. He looked upon it as applying some of the analytic, communication and management skills that he had spent a lifetime honing in academic medicine to the restaurant business. He mentioned he was brought up to speed over the years by his business partner, Hazel Kushner, who had worked with his father for many years and served as general manager of the restaurants. Alan quickly realized that he could not mange restaurants from afar and thus relied on and continues to rely on Hazel, who lives in Winnipeg and is a highly skilled and experienced, hands- on manager. In 2019, Alan received an offer he could not refuse and sold the restaurant on Pembina. That decision left him with the three other locations, at the former Clarion Hotel, the Forks Market and the newest one, on McGillivray Boulevard.
So, at 78 years of age, Alan Guberman, retired from medicine and neurology for over ten years, now pursues his passion for bird photography, improving his golf, cheering for the Ottawa Senators, following the latest technology advances, keeping up with the news and more importantly, watching his and Denyse’s grandchildren grow. He remains very much in the pancake game and loves to travel to Winnipeg to sample the latest Pancake House creation. Just writing about the restaurant makes me want to visit to Winnipeg for a trip to the newest facility
“Reckonings” – riveting documentary film explains how the agreement to offer reparations to Holocaust victims came about
By BERNIE BELLAN Since 1952 the German government has paid more than $562 billion in compensation for crimes committed during the Holocaust, of which $472 billion has been paid to the State of Israel (in goods and services) and $90 billion in cash to individual Holocaust survivors.
How the German government came to agree to compensate victims of the Holocaust is a fascinating story – and one that is the subject of a spellbinding documentary film called “Reckonings.”
On Sunday afternoon, November 12 over 150 people gathered in the auditorium of Westwood Collegiate in St. James to view “Reckonings” and to participate in a discussion that followed the film led by Jewish Heritage of Western Canada Executive Director Belle Jarniewski and Jewish Child and Family Service Holocaust Support Services Worker Adeena Lungen.
The event was timed to coincide with the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht – “the night of broken glass,” which took place Nov. 9-10, throughout Germany, when over 7,000 Jewish businesses were damaged or destroyed, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps, and at least 100 Jews killed.
“Reckonings,” released in 2022, was directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Roberta Grossman. In a style first pioneered by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, Grossman uses historical footage, occasional reenactments, interviews with various individuals who appear from time to time throughout the film – but never for more than a couple of minutes at one time, and music composed to fit the moment, all in a fast-cutting mode that maintains your attention throughout the 74 minutes of the film.
The crux of the story is how the West German government, led by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, decided to take full responsibility for the crimes of the Holocaust, and offer reparations to Holocaust victims.
If there is any one hero in this film, it is Adenauer. As the film explains, he was a former mayor of Cologne whose family was fiercely anti-Nazi. As well, Adenauer was a devout Catholic – something that played a significant role in his wanting to come to terms with German guilt and atone for the collective sins of the German people.
On the Jewish side, the key figure working with Adenauer – and negotiating on behalf of Holocaust victims was Nahum Goldmann, who co-founded the World Jewish Congress in 1936 with Rabbi Stephen Wise.
Goldmann had been stripped of his German citizenship by the racist German Nuremberg laws (and although the film doesn’t explain it, he found refuge in Honduras.) Yet, the fact he was German-born and was able to develop a warm relationship with Adenauer proved key to the eventual creation of what came to be known as the “The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.”
The film unravels the many complexities that were involved in negotiating what turned out to be an agreement of monumental consequence, especially bringing together Jewish and German negotiators across from one another.
In the opening moments of “Reckonings,” co-producer Karen Heilig observes, “You can just imagine what it was like for Jewish representatives to sit down with German representatives only seven years after World War II…It was like negotiating with the devil.”
As the film explains, Israelis themselves were largely opposed to negotiating reparations with the German government. As Heilig observes, “They didn’t want German money.”
Similarly, most of the German population was also opposed to the idea of reparations. “Only 11% of the German population supported compensation” for Jews, according to the film.
In a very interesting insight into the psyche of the German population following the war, it is also noted that, when it came to who the German people thought were most victimized by the war, “Jews were last on the list.”
Amidst what was evidently still a deeply-rooted antisemitism within the German population – and strong opposition from within his own party (Christian Democrat), Adenauer remained adamant that Germany would negotiate reparations – both for individual victims of the Holocaust and for the recently formed State of Israel. (The Federal Republic of Germany itself only came into being in 1949.)
One of the crucial factors in Israel agreeing to negotiate reparations – after having been so solidly opposed, came toward the end of 1951, the film explains, as a result of the Israeli treasury almost being totally bare. The reason was the extraordinarily high cost that the Israeli government had incurred as a result of absorbing hundreds of thousands of refugees since the formation of the state – both Holocaust survivors and refugees from Arab countries.
Yet, despite the precarious state of Israel’s finances, there were still many who refused to countenance the notion of Israel accepting German reparations. In fact, at the time that negotiation began, in 1952, there was a boycott of German goods in Israel.
As the leader of Herut (also leader of the Opposition in the Knesset), Menachem Begin insisted, “reparations will lead to cleansing the guilt of the German people.”
However, notwithstanding the fierce opposition from among many Israelis to entering into negotiations with the German government, Israel’s government, led by David Ben Gurion, did announce that it was ready to discuss reparations, but it led off with a claim for $1 billion – the cost, it said, for absorbing 500,000 Holocaust survivors.
Adenauer agreed to negotiate with both the Israeli government and a representative organization of the Jewish people – but at the time there was no organization in place to do that.
Thus was created “The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany,” with Nachum Goldmann at its head. The other members of the negotiating team had clear goals in mind: What they were negotiating with the West German government was not about “morality,” it was about dollars and cents.
To that end, the negotiators wanted to break down compensation into two different categories: compensation for personal suffering and compensation for property lost to the Nazis.
The problem was: Who would claim compensation for property when everyone who might have owned particular properties had been annihilated?
I actually put that question to Adeena Lungen during the discussion that followed, since the film didn’t go into any detail as to how that circle could be squared. Adeena explained that survivors of Holocaust victims are often able to claim compensation for personal suffering, for which there is significant information available, but compensation for loss of property is often much more difficult to ascertain.
Agencies such as JCFS, which help survivors apply for compensation often rely upon archival information that “gives a wealth of information about property based on the recollections of others from a particular shtetl.” As Adeena further noted, “in Poland, wherever you lived there was a document that recorded where you lived” – and there is now an “online database” based upon those documents from where anyone can get detailed information about where individuals lived.
Before teams representing the three parties (West Germany, Israel, and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany) for the coming negotiations met, however, Konrad Adenauer met with Nahum Goldmann in secret to determine certain basic points: Was West Germany actually ready to pay reparations and where would the negotiations take place?
The answers to those questions were: Yes, West Germany was ready to pay and two, the negotiations were to be held in a neutral county – in this case, The Netherlands.
Although Israel and the Claims Conference were to be separate parties to negotiations with West Germany, it was agreed that Israel and the Claims Conference would coordinate their strategies together.
Prior to the commencement of negotiations, however, the film explains, “German officials wanted to come to terms with the rest of the world, then Israel and the Claims Conference,” but Israel took the position that “No, you have to come to terms with us and the Claims Conference, then the rest of the world.”
With West Germany accepting that as a pre-condition to negotiations, the representatives met and, after a prolonged series of negotiations, West Germany did agree to provide $857 million in reparations, of which $750 million was to go to Israel (but not in cash, as the film explains; rather, it was in goods and services, including raw materials, industrial machinery, and ships for the Israeli navy), while the Claims Conference was to receive $107 million.
However, many individuals were excluded from the deal to receive compensation, including anyone living behind the Iron Curtain and people who had been in hiding during the war.
One of the key individuals during the negotiations with Germany was Ben Ferencz, who passed away this past April. Not only was Ferencz the sole surviving negotiator for the Claim Conference, as Belle Jarniewski also pointed out, Ferencz was the last surviving prosecutor from the famed Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals. Ferencz is featured quite prominently in “Reckonings,” as he was able to give a first-hand account of what the negotiations were like.
The final agreement worked out between West Germany and Israel, on the one hand, and West Germany and the Claims Conference, on the other, came to be known as the Luxembourg Agreement. It has served as the basis for all subsequent agreements to compensate Holocaust victims by the German government.
Of the $90 billion that has been paid out in reparations since 1953, over 270,000 Holocaust survivors were among the first recipients of the initial $107 million paid in 1953. Since then, an additional 500,000 individuals have received payments. And, although the Luxembourg agreement was only intended to provide compensation to survivors in 1953, ever since then there have been regular negotiations between the German government and the Claims Conference, which have resulted in varying amounts being negotiated each time.
Insofar as Holocaust survivors who moved to Winnipeg are concerned – of whom there have been over 1500 individuals over the years, Belle Jarniewski explained the process through which they receive compensation from the German government.
In 1948 something called the United Restitution Office was established to help Holocaust survivors. (The Canadian office was founded in 1952.) The purpose of the office was to help survivors with individual claims. Case files were established for survivors, including claims and documentation describing difficulties survivors have encountered during their lifetimes. In 2022 those files were transferred to the care of the Jewish Heritage Centre.
Adeena Lungen (about whose role at JCFS helping Holocaust survivors we described in some detail in an article in our December 20, 2021 issue, which can be downloaded on our website – simply go to jewishpostandnews.ca and, under the “Search Archive” tab at the top, and enter Dec. 20, 2021 to download the complete issue. The article about Adeena is on page 3.), explained that JCFS has been working with Holocaust survivors in Winnipeg since 2000. Adeena has been serving in her role as Holocaust support services worker for the past 20 years, she noted.
Adeena noted that, in addition to compensation available from the German government for Holocaust survivors, other countries have, in recent years, also begun to offer compensation in certain cases. (For instance, in our two most recent issues we posted an advertisement for compensation now being offered to Jews who were former residents of Lithuania.) Other countries offering compensation now include France, Austria, Poland and Romania, Adeena added.
When asked how a survivor could go about proving that they are actually a Holocaust survivor (and there have been numerous bogus attempts over the years by individuals falsely claiming to be Holocaust survivors), Adeena described the steps JCFS, for instance, will take to verify someone’s claim, noting however that, while JCFS will do an initial assessment of someone’s claim, the final determination rests with the Claims Conference.
According to Adeena, a claimant must submit documents, such as identity papers from the country of origin.
Currently there are still 200,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide, of whom 150,000 have been receiving distributions from the Claims Conference. Adeena noted that new files are still being opened for Holocaust survivors. (Apparently there are still Holocaust survivors who have been unaware that they are eligible to receive compensation.)
In 2022, for instance, the Claims Conference was able to distribute $562 million to 150,000 individual Holocaust survivors. An additional $750 million was distributed to social welfare agencies worldwide, including JCFS. If you would like more information about compensation for Holocaust survivors, contact Adeena Lungen at email@example.com.