Millions of dollars in additional funds are being made available to agencies around the world that provide aid to Holocaust survivors, whose advanced age and health issues makes them particularly vulnerable to the new coronavirus.
The organisation that handles claims on behalf of Jewish victims of the Nazis – the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany – said on Monday that the $4.3 million (Dh15.8m) in initial funding would be made available to agencies around the world providing care for about 120,000 survivors.
The emergency funding includes €200,000 (Dh794,000) from the Alfred Landecker Foundation, established last year by one of Germany’s richest families, whose assets include Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, as a way to help atone for its use of forced labourers during the Nazi era and support of Adolf Hitler’s regime.
All survivors are elderly, with the end of World War II now 75 years in the past, and many suffered from illness, malnutrition and other deprivations either at the hands of the Nazis or as they hid from them, which continues to affect their health today.
There are no statistics yet as to how many Holocaust survivors have been infected by the new coronavirus, but Israel’s first reported Covid-19 fatality was 88-year-old survivor Aryeh Even. About a third of the elderly population in Israel are Holocaust survivors, according to the Claims Conference.
“The coronavirus pandemic is a frightening time for Holocaust survivors as this is a population, like many elderly, that already tends to experience too much social isolation,” said Claims Conference President Julius Berman. “The social isolation caused by this health crisis can take a serious emotional toll which, if unchecked can lead to physical ailments.”
The additional funds will be used to “address critical gaps” in providing survivors help with home care, food, medicine and other assistance as it is needed.
It is in addition to approximately $350m in direct compensation that the Claims Conference is providing to more than 60,000 survivors in 83 countries this year, and about $610m in grants to more than 300 social service agencies.
The Claims Conference is also providing advances of previously committed funds and taking other steps to help the agencies that support survivors.
“Agencies are going to have a cash flow problem and fundraising is going to be difficult,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference. “We want them to do what they do best and go save lives.”
As a result of negotiations with the Claims Conference since 1952, the German government has paid more than $80 billion in Holocaust reparations.