Germany doubles money to aging Holocaust survivors
By SAMANTHA GROSS, Associated Press Samantha Gross, Associated Press – 1 hr 1 min ago
NEW YORK – The German government has agreed to double the money it provides for the at-home care of aging victims of the Holocaust, increasing it to 110 million euros ($146 million) worldwide for 2011, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany announced Monday.
The decision was disclosed a week after an indictment was announced charging 17 people in a massive Holocaust fraud. The increase is a boost for the New York-based Claims Conference, which saw some of its own employees charged in the purported $42 million scheme.
The Claims Conference has coordinated with the German government throughout the investigation of and response to the purported scheme, said Greg Schneider, the organization's executive vice president. The funding increase represents the first Holocaust restitution decision Germany has made since the fraud prosecution was made public.
"I view this as a statement from the German government about their commitment to facing their history and providing support for survivors," Schneider said Monday.
The German Financial Ministry did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The Claims Conference, which provides services and reparations to victims of the Holocaust around the world, has long relied in part on the sale of properties that had been seized from Jews in the years surrounding World War II. But those funds have dwindled in recent years just as the surviving Holocaust victims are growing older.
Even taking into account the number of Holocaust survivors dying each year, the need for at-home care will continue to increase until 2014, when the number of deaths will overtake the number of newly frail, the Claims Conference projects.
The money for 2011 is expected to raise the number of financially needy survivors receiving subsidized care to roughly 70,000 from the current 58,000.
It is particularly important to keep aging survivors out of nursing homes that might force them to relive memories of being pushed from their homes and crowded into group living 70 years ago, Schneider argues.
"Especially for Holocaust survivors, there are emotional triggers that are set off by institutionalization that can be devastating," he said.
U.S. prosecutors say more than 5,500 fraudulent claims for German Holocaust reparations — many of them containing altered birth dates and faked stories of suffering — were approved by the conference. Several of the organization's former workers have been accused in the case, which was made public last month.
Of the recipients who have received letters informing them that they must either appeal or repay tens of thousands of dollars, 105 people have indicated they intend to appeal. At least 39 more have returned the money or agreed to repay it on an installment plan, the Claims Conference said.
Associated Press writer Melissa Eddy contributed to this report from Berlin.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101206/ap_ … aust_funds
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