Holocaust Concert Or Care For Survivors?
09/14/10
Staff Writer
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Elie Wiesel is the honorary host of the concert at Washington’s Kennedy Center. The host is former U.S. Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, who has championed the cause of Holocaust reparations. Members of Congress and the Obama administration will likely be in attendance. And the acclaimed conductor Murry Sidlin will be leading the National Opera Orchestra in a concert chronicling the defiance and resistance of Jewish prisoners at Terezin.

None of which means much to a group of Holocaust survivors who are protesting “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin” because of the Claims Conference’s decision to give the production $50,000 while they say the needs of poor survivors are going unmet.

“Another 20 or more survivors could have been taken care of with that $50,000,” said Leo Rechter, president of the National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors.

The Oct. 6 concert is the latest skirmish in the long-running battle between representatives of needy survivors and the Claims Conference, which sets aside part of its holdings for educational projects that keep alive the memory of the Holocaust.

Noting that the Claims Conference has announced it will largely run out of money in four years, Rechter said the organization should have participated in the concert “with a token dollar and explained that it wanted to spend the rest of its money providing needy survivors with a shred of dignity in their last days.”

David Mermelstein, an officer of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA, said simply: “It doesn’t make sense spending money on anything now other than needy survivors — and there are plenty of them.”

Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, the full name of which is the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, pointed out that the $50,000 is part of the $18 million the organization has set aside each year for education, research and documentation of the Holocaust. That amount represents about 10 percent of the amount the Claims Conference distributes annually, he said.

Schneider said the concert being performed next month was so powerful when it was presented in Prague last year that it was decided to stage it in Washington and to invite members of the Obama administration, members of Congress and the diplomatic corps.

“It is important for us to be involved because it shows what happened during the Shoah,” he said.

Schneider said the performance would be taped for broadcast on PBS, that a curriculum would be developed for classrooms based on it and that a foundation and website would also be created.

But David Schaecter, president of the Miami-based Holocaust Survivors Foundation, claimed the Claims Conference “has blown close to $250 million on [educational, research and documentation] projects in recent years, including grants to board members, having nothing to do with survivor needs. How in God’s name can the Jewish world allow this diversion of holy money while survivors are suffering?”

 

Last Update:

09/26/2010 - 08:01

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As a musician and a devotee of the astounding artistic life of Terezin I am appalled by the expenditure of of Claims Conference funds in support of a performance of the Verdi Requiem at the expense of survivors whose suffering continues in old age. Claim Conference funds are derived from confiscated assets and slave labor derived benefit which belong to victims in need of support, not artistic memorials. Funding for performances commemorating music in Terezin must come from other sources.
Mr. Schneider and his colleagues at the Claims Conference can not be trusted to do anything for Holocaust Survivors. They are enemies of Holocaust Survivors. They are interested in their own institutional survival. He is full of hot air and double talk just like the other officers of the CC. They need to be held accountable for the exploitation and subjugation of Holocaust Survivors. zay Gazunt
Numerous volunteer Survivors are serving on Advisory Committees of Social Agencies that help destitute Survivors. The necessary funds are allocated by the Claims Conference to the agencies and the advisory committee members are not permitted to grant any Survivor more than $2,500 PER YEAR, no matter how severe the degree of poverty. Hence my remark that 20 or more Survivors could have been helped with the $50,000. On the other hand, the institutional allocations - like these $50,000 - are allocated by the members of the Board of Directors of the Claims Conference which consists of a majority of 22 NON-Survivors' organizations (out of 24). The Survivors from the Advisory Committees are not authorized to vote on these institutional allocations (hundreds of millions have been allocated, over the years, including to pet projects of directors, projects which very often have barely any nexus to the Holocaust or none at all). The chairman of the Claims Conference, Mr. Julius Berman, is also the chairman of ALL THREE allocation committees; i.e.: America, Israel & others. It is an autocratic, undemocratic structure that ought to be overhauled. A majority of ACTUAL Holocaust Survivors (or their heirs) ought to have the authority of determining how ALL THE FUNDS obtained for RESTITUTIONS or COMPENSATIONS ought to be spent. Leo Rechter, (elected) president of 'The National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors, Inc., P.O.Box 670125, Station C, Main Street, Flushing, N.Y. 11367
In recent weeks the Claims Conference has tried to get a lot of mileage on the $10 million grant they got from the Weinberg Foundation that is to be given over a 5 year period ( $2 mil a year). They have made appeals for the Jewish community to make donations to help using this grant as a shining example of what should be done. If the Claims Conference has the nerve to say that this grant is SO important to care for desperately needy survivors, how can they justify spending $18 million ANNUALLY on non-care related causes? The last place I would make a donation is to the Claims Conference. Why would anyone interested in helping survivors in need donate to the Claims Conference when so much money goes to things like gala concerts? I'll have to write my check to the local Jewish Family Services agency so I know it will go to helping aging Holocaust survivors who have already suffered too much. Clearly the Claims Conference is not adequately getting the job done.

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