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Holocaust restitution fund spends 30m of survivors' money!

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Anmeldungsdatum: 10.09.2006
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BeitragVerfasst am: Mo Dez 29, 2008 2:07 am    Titel: Holocaust restitution fund spends 30m of survivors' money! Antworten mit Zitat

Holocaust restitution fund spends NIS 30m of survivors' money on itself!
By Tomer Zarchin

The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets has burned through an operating budget of NIS 30 million in less than two years, but it is refusing to say just how much it has managed to turn over to victims and their heirs.

The company was established by a law passed in December 2005, to locate and distribute assets in Israel belonging to Holocaust victims, survivors and their heirs. Some of the assets were to be distributed directly to needy survivors and survivor welfare organizations, on the assumption that only some of the owners and heirs would be found.

As of the end of June, the company had located about NIS 750 million in assets. Meanwhile, in under two years it managed to burn through more than NIS 30 million. Most of the budget came from assets the company held in trust for their owners, with the treasury contributing a small amount.

In the past year, the names of thousands of Holocaust victims with financial and real estate holdings were posted on the company's Web site. More than 8,000 people have responded with claims. About 2,300 of the requests related to bank accounts, but the banks have denied responsibility.

However, the majority of heirs who appealed to the company after finding relatives' names on the list were told their relatives' assets had not yet been transferred to the company. In a form letter, the company announced that "until the asset and full information about its owners is received, your request cannot be processed," adding, "due to the nature of things, these are complex processes, and at this stage it is impossible to determine how and when they will be completed."

When asked for complete, current information regarding the assets that have been restored to heirs, the company refused the respond, but stated instead that 75 assets valued at about NIS 6 million had been restored to 140 heirs. About half of these heirs received shares of the Jewish Colonial Trust, purchased by Diaspora Jews in the early 20th century, worth a total of NIS 150,000.

Meanwhile, this year the company has spent NIS 1.9 for legal advice, NIS 1 million for advertising and public relations, NIS 400,000 for "directors and public committees" and NIS 1.5 million for administrative expenses, according to internal company documents. Its 2008 budget was NIS 17.5 million, and over the past two years, more than NIS 5 million was spent on "initial infrastructure."

One person who has been waiting for her claim to go through is Edna Lahman, 93, of Haifa. Lahman has been waiting for months to receive the small sum her brother deposited in the Jerusalem branch of the Anglo-Palestine Bank (now Bank Leumi) in the 1930s. The NIS 3,000-NIS 4,000 has not arrived.

Her brother had intended to immigrate to Israel in 1939, but World War II changed his plans. Sometime in the early 1940s he and other relatives were sent to the camps, where they died.

In June 2007 Edna Lahman submitted an application to the company.

"I am 93 and not in the best of health," she wrote in a letter to the company last month. "In the past year my ability to function has declined and I have a home health aide three times a week. I do not understand why you have dragged out this matter for so long. Are you waiting for me to die?"

Regarding Lahman's case, company officials said this week that the matter was complex but had just finished being processed, and that Lahman's disbursement had been approved. They said that after the sum is revalued, the company will inform Lahman of its decision.

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