Help for Needy Holocaust Survivors In Doubt as Donor Conference Scrapped

Have 46 Nations Abandoned Vows of Terezin Declaration?

Promises Deferred: Dignitaries from 46 nations agreed to provide help for needy Holocaust survivors in a landmark 2009 conference in Prague. Now, a conference to actually gather the needed resources has been put off indefinitely.
courtesy of czech republic
Promises Deferred: Dignitaries from 46 nations agreed to provide help for needy Holocaust survivors in a landmark 2009 conference in Prague. Now, a conference to actually gather the needed resources has been put off indefinitely.

By Paul Berger

Published June 14, 2013, issue of June 21, 2013.
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He added that it was unclear whether Czech funding would continue at all after 2014. “It’s a big question,” Cistecky said. “If the majority of countries from Terezin decide or don’t see that it is a necessity to have such a platform and say it’s completely useless, we will say, ‘Okay.’”

Cistecky, who serves on ESLI’s board, said the organization faced other hurdles, too. Despite the large number of nations that affirmed the Terezin Declaration, Cistecky said that only a handful — primarily the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic — play a “really active” role in ESLI. Many other countries, particularly those in Eastern Europe, “are not active at all,” he said.

Even Stuart Eizenstat, one of the Terezin Declaration’s most vocal proponents, concedes that ESLI “has been a disappointment.” But Eizenstat, who was a special adviser to President Clinton on Holocaust reparations, said that it is unfair to lay all the blame at ESLI’s door.

ESLI can achieve only as much as its affirming nations are willing to deliver, Eizenstat said, lamenting a “lack of real attention to following through on [the] political commitments they made at Terezin.” Eizenstat blamed a lack of commitment at the White House as well as Europe-wide austerity measures and a rise in anti-Semitism in several European countries for hindering ESLI’s performance.

Tereza Knapová, ESLI’s interim director, said many of the countries that affirmed the Terezin Declaration “do not take the Terezin Declaration very seriously sometimes.”

ESLI sent out questionnaires at the beginning of this year, asking 47 countries basic questions about how they deal with the social welfare of survivors. Knapová said that fewer than 20 countries responded before the deadline, at the end of March.

Knapová added that ESLI has now received 37 questionnaires and that the social welfare conference will go ahead at the end of the year. In the meantime, ESLI is organizing a hearing in the European Parliament to try to raise awareness of survivor issues among member states, which make up the bulk of the countries that affirmed the declaration.

Knapová said she believes that the conference will be better for the extra time its participants will now have to prepare. But some wonder why certain governments and organizations are struggling now with an issue that has been looming for decades.

Robert Wexler, a former Congressman who attended the 2009 conference in Prague, said: “I believe it took some time, too much time… for everyone involved in the process to realize the depth of the social welfare problems of Holocaust survivors.”

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


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