Blistering Report Slams Claims Conference — Two Members Object to Findings

80-Page Report Demands Restructure After $57M Fraud

getty images

By Paul Berger

Published July 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The organization responsible for allocating billions of dollars in Holocaust restitution must commit to “a comprehensive restructure of…its culture structures, administration, management and governance,” according to a blistering 80-page report to board members of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany obtained by the Forward.

Two members of the four-man committee presenting the investigation to the board, Abraham Biderman and Roman Kent, resigned from the committee in protest at the report, which found serious weaknesses in Claims Conference management.

“I believe that the report is inappropriately pejorative, contains material factual errors, and does not take into account the substantial management improvements made subsequent to 2001,” Biderman wrote in a July 7 letter announcing his resignation from the committee.

The committee based its findings on an investigation conducted by the Claims Conference ombudsman Shmuel Hollander. The investigation was commissioned following a story in the Forward that Claims Conference officials failed to heed an anonymous 2001 letter alleging fraud against key personnel in the organization’s New York claims processing office.

When the fraud was eventually discovered, in late 2009, two Holocaust funds had been defrauded of $57 million. But the committee found that had the 2001 letter been “properly addressed and investigated thoroughly” the fraud might have been discovered.

The allegations in the letter were investigated twice, first by a Claims Conference employee in Germany, then by a paralegal at the New York law firm of Julius Berman, the current Claims Conference chairman who at the time served as pro bono counsel to the Claims Conference.

Crucially, the report found a key weakness in the management structure of the Claims Conference: the alleged ringleader of the fraud, Semen Domnitser, had no superior. Although both investigations were cursory, they “should have served as an alert to Mr Domnitser’s superiors, had anyone been functioning in this capacity,” the committee found. Since Domnitser had no superior, the “fraud continued — and was perhaps even expanded — for eight years.”

The committee reported that “the absence of professional control systems, as well as the absence of computerization…, constituted a key factor in enabling, and certainly in facilitating, the fraud.”


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 Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • 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?
  • 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.