(JTA) – Many of the remaining 500,000 Holocaust survivors around the world live in poverty and need assistance, an international conference was told.
Representatives of 39 countries participating in the two-day “Living in Dignity” conference that ended on Wednesday called on the international community to provide more assistance to survivors, including not taxing their survivors’ benefits and not using their benefits as an excuse to prevent them from qualifying for programs for low-income individuals.
The conference was organized by the European Shoah Legacy Institute in the wake of the Terezin declaration signed by 47 countries and the European Union in 2009.
“The purpose of this international conference is to bring government, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and independent experts together to explore realistic mechanisms and best practices to assist those most in need and provide a modicum of dignity in their remaining years,” read the introduction to the conference.
“It’s really unacceptable that those people who in their youth suffered so grievously should have to live out their declining years in deprivation, isolation and poverty,” Stuart Eizenstat, special adviser on Holocaust issues to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told AFP, echoing the conference’s concluding statement.
“In New York City alone, of the 60,000 survivors, 50 per cent are in that state. In Israel about a third are, and in the former Soviet Union countries upwards of 85-90 per cent are in poverty,” Eizenstat said.
Representatives at the conference called on each country to appoint an official to co-ordinate Holocaust survivors’ payments and help them gain access to other social programs. They also called on the European Union to appoint a special co-ordinator to combat anti-Semitism and address other Holocaust issues.
The conference was held in conjunction with the European Parliament, European Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic, with the support of Israeli Ministry for Senior Citizens, EVZ Stiftung and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.