Monday, May 12, 2008

Holocaust survivors: No money to fund restitution appeals

Despite court decision to recognize restitution right of Bulgarian, Romanian Jews who lived in curfew during WWII but did not survive concentration camps, official says they live below poverty line as government fails to recognize, compensate them

Yael Branovsky

It is unheard of that people who can hardly make ends meet have to hire lawyers so that the court recognizes their rights,” chairman of the Association of Immigrants from Rumania, Ze’ev Schwartz, said Sunday in regards to the court decision to render eligible for restitution 100 Bulgarian and Romanian-born Jews who lived under curfew conditions during the Holocaust but not in concentration camps. Schwartz told Ynet that nearly 6,000 Holocaust survivors from Romania are living below the poverty line and are not receiving any compensation from the government. Schwartz said he is hard at work in setting up headquarters to protest outside the prime minister’s residence in the next few weeks.

“It is fairly odd that the court has recognized those rights while the government has not,” he said. Schwartz added that a large group of Romanian Holocaust survivors was driven away from their homes during World War II, leaving their assets behind, yet the government has failed to compensate them since doing so would require a long and expensive bureaucratic process. “I’m tried of keeping silent; this is simply a scandal. We will act at once to fix it." The State of Israel's official Appeals Committee ruled that 100 Jews living in Bulgaria and Romania under curfew conditions during the Holocaust are now eligible to receive lawful restitution, according to the 1957 law regarding victims of Nazi persecution. The committee also recommended that every Jew who lived under Nazi rule should be entitled to reparations and that Bulgarian and Romanian-born Jews be compensated following individual assessment from now on.

According to the committee, "minute distinctions" between survivors had led to a situation in which some have been recognized as victims while others have not. “There is an innate problem in being able to confirm factual findings regarding events that took place six decades ago in a distant reality,” the committee members said. Back in 2005, The Supreme Court ruled that Bulgarian-born Jews receive restitution even though they were “only” expelled from their homes and were not transported to concentration camps. However, they were required to deliver documents dating back decades in order to prove they have been suffering from mental disability.

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