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!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • 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.