Pressure Mounts on Claims Conference Chief Over Fraud Probe

Julius Berman Faces New Criticism Over Investigation

Pressure Rises: Claims Conference board members and outside groups are raising calls for Julius Berman to allow an independent investigation into his role in the botched probe of multimillion dollar fraud at the Holocaust restitution group.
getty images
Pressure Rises: Claims Conference board members and outside groups are raising calls for Julius Berman to allow an independent investigation into his role in the botched probe of multimillion dollar fraud at the Holocaust restitution group.

By Paul Berger

Published June 07, 2013, issue of June 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

The FBI and the Justice Department investigations focused on prosecuting the fraudsters, an effort that resulted in 28 guilty pleas and three convictions. A spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said his office could not comment on the Claims Conference’s handling of the 2001 letter.

Deloitte was hired by the German government after the Claims Conference had tightened security following discovery of the fraud. Deloitte’s aim was to “identify any potential weaknesses and recommend improvements,” according to a May 8 letter from Berman to board members. A spokesman for the German Ministry of Finance said: “It was agreed that the report would be treated confidentially.”

Neither Berman nor the Claims Conference has described the scope of the select leadership committee’s inquiry. Merhav did not respond to requests for comment.

Kessler-Godin said: “The committee … has been formed to formulate an appropriate course of action for the Claims Conference with respect to the issues surrounding the 2001 letter. All issues on this topic will be referred to this committee. Once the work of this committee is complete, its findings and recommendations will be made public.”

Kent told the Forward on June 3 that the parameters of the investigation would be decided at the committee’s first meeting, due to be held that week. “The committee was formed for certain reasons and I will see what [they are],” Kent said.

Kent said he had not seen the letter from the American Gathering calling for an independent investigation, and was not interested in reading it for comment.

Kent and Berman have a famously antagonistic relationship, clashing often over Claims Conference spending. But Seltzer, who has worked closely with Kent for decades, said the antagonists share a devotion to survivors.

If Kent and Berman believe it is in the survivors’ interest to “clear the name of the Claims Conference,” they will do so, Seltzer said. “This is truly for the welfare of the Jewish people. And they will want to clear it up,” she said.

Seltzer, though, believes that only an independent investigation can silence Claims Conference critics who allege that the 2001 letter was mishandled. “Otherwise, no matter what, people will still be throwing rocks,” she said.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger


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!
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • 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.