How $57 Million Holocaust Fraud Unfolded at Claims Conference

Letter From Manhattan Federal Court

Done Deal: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, right, and Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, sign an agreement to expand benefits to Holocaust survivors.
getty images
Done Deal: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, right, and Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, sign an agreement to expand benefits to Holocaust survivors.

By Paul Berger

Published May 09, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The federal courtroom in Manhattan was notably empty considering the eye-catching size and target of the fraud: a 15-year campaign to falsely claim $57 million meant for some of the world’s neediest Holocaust survivors.

Only a smattering of friends and relatives of the three accused were in the 26th-floor courtroom for the climactic closing statements on behalf of the two women and one man alleged to have colluded in the scheme. After half a day of deliberation, the jury found all three guilty.

But for some, miles away from the Daniel Patrick Moynihan courthouse, across America and overseas, the guilt of the three was of secondary importance compared to the alleged culpability of the organization tasked with administrating those funds: the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

The Claims Conference administers an array of funds set up by the German government to restitute Holocaust survivors. Critics want to know how such an enormous fraud could have been perpetrated for so long without being detected.

“If you are running an organization and you have oversight responsibility that [is not] fulfilled properly, you have to have some accountability and take some responsibility,” Isi Leibler, a longtime critic of the Claims Conference, told the Forward.

Leibler singled out Claims Conference Chairman Julius Berman and Executive Vice-President Greg Schneider for particular criticism in a recent Jerusalem Post opinion article. Leibler, a former World Jewish Congress official who lives in Israel, wrote that instead of launching an independent review following the fraud, the two men orchestrated a “Stalinist” board resolution that absolved the Claims Conference of all blame.

“Such contemptuous rejection of all managerial accountability in the wake of such a massive fraud would be inconceivable in any public company or government body where resignations or dismissals would have been mandatory,” Leibler argued.

In an interview with the Forward, Berman rejected Leibler’s charges. Liebler, he said, was just looking for a scapegoat for the fraud. Far from being a “bunch of nebishes,” the Claims Conference board, which is comprised of representatives from more than 20 organizations including B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Committee, is independent and beholden to no one, said Berman. (Samuel Norich, Forward Association president, is on the board representing the Jewish Labor Committee.)

Berman also pointed to a recent review of the Claims Conference, conducted by Deloitte & Touche, as evidence that the matter had been independently investigated.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.