Holocaust Restitution: A Dubious, Fraud-Filled Enterprise Unworthy of the Support of a US President

 

Claims Conference squanders tens of millions of dollars each year on organizations having little to do with the Holocaust or its survivors

First Class flights around the world, accommodation at deluxe hotels, dining at fancy restaurants and a series of credit cards, this is how the Claims Conference, which deals with restitution of Jewish property from the Holocaust, operates.

Claims Conference is the biggest Jewish claims organization in the world. It represents the Jews in negotiating for compensation and restitution for victims of Nazi German persecution. It also administers compensation funds, recovers unclaimed Jewish property, and allocates funds to institutions that provide social welfare services to Holocaust survivors. At first glance, a noble mission – but is that really the case?

On May 19, 2006, The Jewish Chronicle revealed that the Claims Conference highest-paid official, executive vice-president Gideon Taylor (today Chair of Operations of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, WJRO, which was strongly engaged in lobbying for Acts S. 447 and H.R. 1226), was awarded $437,811 in salary and pension (2004 numbers). For comparison: The current annual income of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is $201,700 only.

An advisor to British survivors in compensation claims in the 1990s, Dr. Pinto-Duschinsky, commented: “It is wrong for the executive vice-president to earn annually the same as the compensation for several hundred former slave laborers. The moral authority of the leading Jewish organizations is gravely weakened by excessively high salaries for top officials.”

Isi Leibler, the former chairman of the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress, accused the Claim Conference of incompetence, impropriety, and cover-ups as well as the absence of an independent review board, bureaucratization and a domination by a small clique.

In an article of the Jerusalem Post on May 8, 2007, Leibler said that “the richest Jewish foundation in the world, has still failed to provide adequate financial assistance to elderly and sick Holocaust survivors who live in abject poverty in the twilight of their lives. An organization which boasts that it currently holds in trust $900 million in assets, yet fails to rectify such a condition, must be held accountable for one of the greatest scandals in contemporary Jewish life” (Wikipedia).

Yedioth Ahronoth reported in 2006: “tens of millions of dollars each year” are spent on management expenses with the balance going largely to organizations having little to do with the Holocaust or its survivors.

In 2013, Shmuel Hollander, a highly respected and long-serving Israeli public servant made headlines as ombudsman for the Claims Conference. Hollander revealed fraud activities of the organization’s leaders of gigantic dimensions. He blamed the group for allowing a multimillion-dollar fraud to take place for years — unnoticed — within its New York office. Despite the alarming Hollander’s report, the situation did not change. Two years later, in 2015 Hollander again accused the organization’s leadership of serious mismanagement, and of torpedoing his efforts to help Holocaust survivors in their efforts to gain restitution.

His 2015 report stated that the Claims Conference:

  • Failed in “tailoring its organizational structure to meet the growing range of activities and needs”
  • “Was governed in a manner unacceptable in both public and corporate bodies”
  • Demonstrated “systematic failings and problematic organizational behavior,” and
  • Operated with an “absence of professional control systems … [that] constituted a key factor in enabling and certainly in facilitating the [$57 million] fraud” which could otherwise “have limited the enormous scope of the fraud.”

His report concluded that the Claims Conference management had failed to address the fraud even when made aware of it. An “enormous hole in the control mechanisms sent out an invitation to the thief” and “even with the writing on the wall, and the organization exposed to warning signs, the matter was not attended to.”

According to Hollander, management failures were not restricted to the multi-million-dollar fraud and they are “only the tip of the iceberg” (Source: Leibler’s Word From Jerusalem).

It is all about belated justice to Holocaust survivors and their heirs, right? Well, not quite, it turns out.

The only consequence of Hollander’s report was that … he was fired.

In a shocking article in the Jerusalem Post (2015), Samuel Sokol discussed the dismissal of Hollander for bringing Holocaust-restitution-related corruption to light.

The scale of the fraud had been extensive. Sokol quips, “Writing to the Claims Conference’s board last week, recently terminated ombudsman Shmuel Hollander asserted that, while reports had said organizational insiders had siphoned off $57 million in German taxpayer funds meant for survivors, ‘the final sum is in all probability much higher.’…For over a decade, a criminal ring within the organization embezzled tens of millions of dollars through false restitution claims.”

The fraud that had occurred is no aberration: It is built-in to the very way that Holocaust restitution works. Thus, Hollander had unstintingly talked about, “‘systematic failings and problematic organization behavior.’”

On March 28, 2018, Gideon Taylor, the present WJRO executive, a proponent of Acts S. 447 and H.R. 1226, and former Claims Conference “vice-president who earned annually the same as the compensation for several hundred former slave laborers” stated in the leading Polish daily Rzeczpospolita:  “This (compensation for Jewish Holocaust survivors) is an extremely important issue for many Americans. This is not about politics or even financial compensation, but basic justice for the Holocaust survivors whose properties were illegally taken away. People are beginning to realize that soon we will live in a world where there will be no Holocaust survivors. Passing away of Elie Wiesel should be an awakening for us. There is very little time left to solve this problem”.

The question of Holocaust restitution, apart from issues of which past wrongs are entitled to retroactive compensation and which are not, is, to put it mildly, beset with irregularities. FOR THAT REASON ALONE, PRESIDENT TRUMP SHOULD VETO ACT S.447. The fact that it was rushed through with a voice vote, with no attention to its consequences, makes it even more so.