(JTA) – Conditions didn’t seem favorable in early May as Stuart Eizenstat entered annual negotiations with the German government over reparations for the estimated 240,000 remaining Holocaust survivors around the world.
Eizenstat had served as the special negotiator for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany since 2009, and had analyzed the country’s economic and political landscape: high inflation, spiraling fuel costs and unprecedented government spending on defense to support Ukraine in its war with Russia. Add to that a German finance minister, Christian Lindner, who was elected less than two years on a platform of budget cuts, fiscal restraint and smaller government.
“We’re dealing with German taxpayer money. That has to be accounted for. And we’ve been in an era in the last couple of years and particularly this year with negative factors that would seem to have an inauspicious impact,” Eizenstat said in an interview.
Yet the compensation package Eizenstat helped secure for the Claims Conference — more than $1.4 billion — was the largest monetary figure agreed to for a single year since German reparations began more than seven decades ago. The figure reflected a recognition that, even as the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles with each passing year, the needs of the remaining survivors are increasing as they age.
Some of the $1.4 billion that Germany agreed to spend will be paid directly to survivors; the bulk will fund social welfare services such as home care and food packages, administered through about 300 agencies across 83 countries. Germany also agreed to boost funding for Holocaust education programs.
“This is perhaps the most productive session we’ve ever had,” Eizenstat said. “And the fact that it has occurred almost 80 years after the war is a testimony to the Claims Conference’s relentless pursuit of justice and the partnership that we’ve had with the German government.”
Total direct compensation to survivors is expected to reach $535 million next year, mostly paid out in pensions to survivors. In addition, negotiations resulted in four more years of hardship payments — direct allocations to survivors who have not qualified for pensions —which were introduced following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. More than 128,000 survivors can expect to receive 1,250 euros each, or about $1,360, in 2024, an amount that will go up by 50 euros each year through 2027.
The hardship payments were negotiated on top of the regular Holocaust survivor pensions, and they primarily benefit Jews from the former Soviet Union who were not interned in camps or placed into ghettos and were therefore not included in the pension program. These Jews survived Nazi mobile killing units that murdered more than 1 million Jews, including entire communities, and today are more likely to experience poverty.
Another category of aid has skyrocketed over the past two decades: social services. German spending in this category will reach about $890 million in 2024, an increase of $105 million over last year. Fifteen years ago, the total was less than $50 million.
In 2023, 120,000 survivors received home care, medical transportation and other forms of support through Jewish social service agencies.
“Survivors are getting more frail, and they are needing more hours of care, and more assistance,” said Reuben Rotman, president and CEO of the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies.
The agencies represented by Rotman’s group keep track not only of the services they have provided to survivors but also of unmet needs. So if a survivor needed 20 hours of care but received only 12 due to funding constraints, the gap would register in data collected by the Claims Conference.
“The Claims Conference goes back to Germany each year and aggregates all the unmet needs for all the organizations that are funding and makes the case for increases. And generally, they’ve been successful in those negotiations,” Rotman said.
Germany also agreed to continue increasing funding for Holocaust education around the world, providing the Claims Conference with about $150 million for educational programs over the next four years. The money is meant to counter findings from recent surveys showing that the public is growing less knowledgeable about the Holocaust as it recedes further into the past.
According to a 2018 survey commissioned by the Claims Conference, nearly half of American adults could not name a single concentration camp and almost a third were under the impression that the number of Jewish victims was far lower than the 6 million who were murdered.
The Claims Conference’s education budget helped pay, for example, for the production of “Son of Saul,” a 2015 Hungarian film set in the Auschwitz concentration camp that won an Oscar for best foreign film.
Exposure to survivors and education about the Holocaust deserve credit for the successful outcome of this year’s negotiations, according to Eizenstat. He noted that in the leadup to the formal meetings, chief German negotiator Luise Hölscher was taken on a tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem; Polin, a Jewish history museum in Warsaw; and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
“I took Luise for three hours before the negotiation and introduced her to three of our survivors who are docents at the Holocaust Memorial Museum,” Eizenstat said. “It really gave her a historical sense of the Holocaust, but also how much these funds mean to the dignity of survivors.”
Later this year, the Claims Conference will release what it says is the most comprehensive demographic report on survivors ever, detailing where they live, broken down by country and city.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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