The German government has for the first time agreed to a multiyear commitment to fund home care for needy Holocaust survivors, thus assuring survivors and the agencies that care for them that funding will be available as survivor needs peak in 2014, according to Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
The announcement Tuesday came after a daylong negotiating session Monday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan. It was the first time negotiations had taken place outside of Berlin.
“We took them on a tour of the museum for an hour before the session with a German-speaking guide,” Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, the Claims Conference’s special negotiator, told The Jewish Week. “The environment was quite good and historic.”
In the negotiations, Germany agreed to increase home care funding from $177 million to $196 million from 2012 to 2014. Germany nearly doubled home care funding in each of the last two years.
“You can’t expect them to keep doubling every year,” Eizenstat said. “The paper we gave them said the figure we felt would satisfy a basic minimum requirement for home care worldwide was 180 million euros; they will be paying 140 million euros [in 2014]. They told us they had doubled the amount in one year because our paper had convinced them of the need.”
Although Germany initially wanted to keep the home care figure at the current 110 million euros in 2012, Eizenstat said it agreed to increases in each of the next three years. And he said the Germans liked the idea of a multiyear deal because “they took a tremendous amount of flak for doubling the amount last year and they wanted an assurance they would not have to go back to the Bundestag each year. … They wanted to be able to present a three-year figure believing it would be easier now [to secure it], not knowing the uncertainty of 2014. And by locking in the figures, we know we can’t go below those numbers. They said this is a guarantee. So even with the terribly difficult fiscal plight that all of Europe is facing, it is not subject to Bundestag cutting.”
In a statement, Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, said the additional funding would mean his organization “can provide more hours of home care, addressing the most basic needs of these aging and frail victims of Nazism.”
“We can enable more survivors to remain in their own homes, living in familiar surroundings while getting the services they need and deserve,” he added.
But a spokeswoman for the Claims Conference said it is “too early to tell” whether the additional money will permit an increase in the number of hours of home care, which is currently capped at 25 hours.
“We will need to assess as we move forward,” she said. “In order to provide home care to all survivors who need it, agencies are building capacity and increasing caseloads. But it is always a day-to-day struggle to help Nazi victims as best as possible. The situation is constantly fluid, as more survivors develop needs and others pass away.”
It is estimated that about 71,500 survivors worldwide will require home care when the need for this service reaches its peak in early 2014. Of that number, 11,000 live in the United States, about half in the New York area.
The Germans also agreed to increase by about $7.8 million annually payments for those receiving Article 2 Fund monthly payments. And they agreed to consider on an individual basis those seeking Article 2 Fund payments even though they were not incarcerated in a ghetto for the 18 months stipulated in Article 2. Exceptions would be made in a review of the totality of their persecution and other factors.
Eizenstat said the Germans agreed last year to consider on an individual basis Article 2 Fund claim requests from those who were imprisoned in concentration camps for less than 18 months.
“We gave them 180 cases, and they approved every one,” he said. “They said look at our record and you will see we are going to look at this with a sensitive eye.”
In addition, the Germans agreed also for the first time to allow survivors to apply for Article 2 Funds of about $420 a month even if they had received one-time German payments of about $10,000 in the 1950s and 1960s.
Working groups have now been established to discuss what if anything to do for child survivors and those who fled Moscow and Stalingrad to escape the Nazis.