Holocaust Victims for Compensation from Germany

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During the period 1933 to 1945 Germany forcefully confiscated, induced sales of and destroyed an estimated $350bn worth of economic value (movable and immovable property) excluding personal injury or loss of life. Since 1945 until today, Germany has made various payments to Holocaust survivors to the value of approximately $70bn in 2007 value or only 20% of the total value excluding loss of life and personal injury.

The main organization negotiating on behalf of the survivors with Germany is the Claims Conference despite it being controlled by a small group of people who were never elected or officially appointed by the survivors or decendents of survivors and;

These people have remained in office at the CC sometimes for decades without any democratic process or performance evaluation.

Many scholars, survivors and family members have voiced their disapproval of the current Claims conference structures and processes including Sam Dubbin, Daniel Kadden, Michael Bazyler, Leo Rechter, Joe Sachs, Previous Editor of Jerusalem Post David Horovitz, Jack Rubin, Klara Firestone, Barbara Paris, Eugenie Lieberman, David Schaechter, David Mermelstein, Mordechai Hareli. And

Recently a large case of fraud to the value of over $70million was discovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and as a result officials of the Claims Conference were sentenced to jail. And;

The Claims Conference is one of the largest Jewish philanthropic bodies in the world, with total annual revenues in 2004 exceeding $1 billion. The group administers global compensation programs, holds billions in property assets and reserves, and boasts an influential direct grant program that has dispensed over $800 million since 1996 and now exceeds $100 million in annual outlays. Scores of community-based agencies serving survivors in the U.S., Israel and Europe are heavily dependent on annual Claims Conference grants. 

Controversy has particularly surrounded the Claims Conference’s policy, adopted in 1994, that 20 percent of its discretionary grant money — a total of over $150 million since 1996, derived from recent restitution settlements and the proceeds of sales of German property — be directed to Holocaust remembrance and education projects rather than to emergency or essential social services for survivors. Despite bitter complaints by survivors and pleas from leading Jewish Federations (including a formal resolution by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, representing hundreds of Federation community relations councils), the 20 percent policy has remained in effect. 

The Claims Conference has also been buffeted by complaints about a perceived lack of accountability and responsiveness in its management of resources. Jewish Federations in North America, Israeli officials, European Jewish leaders, social service professionals and, most pointedly, survivors, have charged that while the Conference exercises exclusive control over hundreds of millions of dollars secured in the name of Holocaust survivors, they maintain a remarkably closed decision-making process with no formal mechanisms for input from the wider Jewish community opinion, particularly from rank-and-file survivors. 

Planning and allocation decisions, these critics charge, take place behind opaque curtains. There are no published guidelines setting out the criteria used in approving grant applications. Published financial and statistical data are heavily abridged in comparison with data from other large Jewish agencies. Full inventories of German properties and other assets held by the “Successor Organization” are not publicly available, and neither are reliable estimates of the value of the property portfolio. Policy regarding the purposes and use of an enormous reserve fund for “future needs” — now approaching $300 million — is unspecified. 

Only four of the Claims Conference's forty-eight voting board seats are apportioned to survivor organizations, and these were added only in 1989. The governance structure hews closely to the original form created in 1951, with twenty-four constituent organizations, including some small and marginal ones from among the founders, each having two voting seats on the board, which generally meets only once or twice a year. And;

The United States of America's House of Congress has been trying to deal with this issue for many years with little success.

Therefore

we the survivors and direct descendants of victims and survivors of the Holocaust wish to propose the following:

1. The Claims Conference (CC) transforms itself into a membership organization that invites all survivors and descendants of survivors and victims to become members. The one requirement is that they declare their support for Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish people. The verification process of members shall be based on the Yad Vashem and or the USHMM databases.

2. The current board of directors of the CC resigns and elections are held within a short space of time for new board members via an electronic internet based voting system.

3. The new board members shall immediately initiate a full review of all policies and programs and make their findings public within no longer than 6 months from being elected.

4. Fundamental principle that the new board will abide by includes full transparency of all financial matters to the minimum level and standards currently practiced by publicly traded companies and regulated by the SEC's full disclosure rules.

5. Report on the top 20% of paid executive packages. Provide quarterly updates and allow input from all members regards points for negotiation with the German government. Post transcripts of conversations between the CC and the German government onto the CC website as they occur.

6. Establish as a founding principle and communicate that the CC will demand full compensation to a minimum total value of $350bn minus all payments already made including payments made to the State of Israel. Full payment shall be made within a reasonable time frame but no longer than 30 years i.e. By no later than 2050

7. All businesses that in anyway supported, aided or abetted the Nazis shall be required to immediately disclose all archived material and shall establish full compensation programs.

8. The CC overhead budget will be cut dramatically and a call will be made to invite volunteers or pro bono service providers to provide any necessary services required.

9. All payments not being made directly to survivors (currently about 50% of the funds) shall cease and shall instead be made directly to the survivors with the discretion of how to spend those funds to remain the sole right of the survivors and their descendants

10. All funds currently earmarked for educational programs or research shall require a review and super majority approval by a "members only" voting process.



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