Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

The University of Michigan Library provides access to these materials for educational and research purposes. These materials may be under copyright. If you decide to use any of these materials, you are responsible for making your own legal assessment and securing any necessary permission. If you have questions about the collection, please contact the Bentley Historical Library at bentley.ref@umich.edu

February 21, 2003 - Image 23

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-02-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

q.:1"7Iak'r.-ms :•:m"•,.:43:


Editorials are posted and archived on JN Online:

Claims Conference Goes Off Track

he Holocaust Claims Conference just
doesn't get it.
Its first responsibility — in fact, the
whole reason for its creation more than 50
years ago — is to make sure that the actual sur-
vivors of the Shoah will be taken care of as well as
humanly possible. But conference officials continue
to act as if they were more concerned with taking
care of the organization's future than with assuring a
decent, dignified life for survivors
At immediate issue is the conference's policy of
allocating to Holocaust documentation, education
and research about $85 million, about one-fifth of
the proceeds from its sale of what it considers
unclaimed property that Jews had owned
in East Germany. Critics say the money
should be spent instead on helping needy
victims of Nazi persecution in 31 coun-
tries around the world, particularly the tens of thou-
sands of impoverished survivors in the former Soviet
In America alone, an estimated 50,000 aging sur-
vivors rely on reparations payments to provide a
quality of life beyond what Medicare and Social
Security cover.
According to Julius Berman, the chairman of the
organization, the East German property settlement
includes the mission to "memorialize the people and
the way they lived." But the terms of the settlement
were negotiated by the conference itself a decade
ago without publicity or opportunity for input from
the survivors and their supporters. By assigning
itself a role as an educational foundation, the
Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against
Germany Inc. gave itself a permanent endowment
that protects the jobs of some of its 400 employees
in New York, Tel Aviv and Frankfurt.
Six years ago, the Jerusalem Report magazine
detailed massive self-serving by the conference in its
handling of the actual recovered properties. In secret
negotiations with German officials, the conference


Dry Bones

established an artificial deadline for
survivors to claim the properties —
among them some of the finest
buildings in East Germany — and
iN 71-46 FACE
never publicized that deadline in
America and the European countries
where the most likely claimants live.
As a result, the conference took
title to thousands of buildings that it
has been selling through a network of
favored brokers, sometimes over the
objections of the actual survivors who
are denied property that is rightfully
Admittedly, the organiza-
tion has had an enormous
task in coordinating the
prompt and proper disper-
sal of billions of dollars stemming
from various restitution sources,
including looted Swiss banks
accounts, reparations for forced
German laborers and slaves and
Holocaust-era insurance as well as the
German property. It claims to have
helped direct at least $50 billion to
more than 500,000 survivors.
But the process has been repeatedly
delayed by a variety of forces, some
of them outside of conference con-
trol, such as balky insurance compa-
nies that make insultingly small offers
to settle legitimate claims. For needy
major national and international Jewish organiza-
survivors, every day that goes by
tions such as the Jewish Agency, the World Jewish
without proper and generous support is a hideous
Congress and agencies from the United States,
reminder of the Nazi atrocities. That is why the
Britain, France, Germany and South Africa. The
conference's ambition to educate the world about
board would do its own credibility a great service if
the Holocaust must take a back seat to the immedi-
it publicly reaffirmed its commitment to its found-
ate needs of the victims.
ing goal of helping better the lives of those the
Ultimate responsibility for the conference rests
Shoah ruined. ❑
with its board of directors — representatives of 23


tosfoRY of



High Alert

o, the U.S. government wasn't referring
to a product of Jaffa when it raised the
security warning level in the United
States to level orange last week.
Reports now indicate that the height-
ened security was based partly on a fabri-
cated statement of an Al Qaida prisoner
at the U.S. detention center in Quantanamo Bay,
Cuba. Should we feel sheepish or deceived? Not
really. As the events of Sept. 11, 2001, proved, we
can never be too prepared.
Some of us heard "level orange" and thought,
"How am I going to be inconvenienced at the air-
port?" Others went running to buy bottled water,
plastic sheeting and duct tape to prepare for the local


effects of a terrorist bombing triggered by agents of
Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. The correct
reaction must be somewhere in between.
The terrorists win if we change the
way we live and cower in our homes,
refusing to visit our synagogues, schools
and public facilities — the bedrock of
what makes America the envy of the free world.
Concern is understandable, but we shouldn't let it
become consuming.
The terrorists also win if we go on with our
daily lives as if nothing has happened. Jewish lead-
ers have taken prudent precautions. The level of
security at local Jewish institutions, including the
Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan


Detroit and the Max M. Fisher Federation
Building, has been raised significantly — but not
to the point of stifling access or canceling pro-
grams that define who we are and give meaning to
the words "the land of the free.
Notably, Jews are no longer surprised by build-
ing lockdowns, required sign-ins, camera monitors
and a police presence as we crisscross the Detroit
Jewish community.
We all should take heed. An extra look at what
we do and how we do it, as well as heightened
curiosity and suspicion, does not give victory to
the terrorists. As President Bush might say, "An
ounce of prevention is far better than a pound of
cure." ❑ .



Back to Top

© 2020 Regents of the University of Michigan