Holocaust Remembrance Day

Help Needed To Meet The Cost of Survival

By Roman Kent

Published May 06, 2005, issue of May 06, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Auschwitz is much more than just a part of me — it is all of me. The same holds true for each and every survivor.

As Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated this year on May 6, 60 years after the liberation of the camps, not too many of us are still alive. None of us is a youngster anymore.

For many of us, unfortunately, old age has not brought contentment. For us, time has not been the best medicine. Now in our old age, we constantly and vividly relive our wartime experiences, and have ailments caused by the suffering endured decades ago.

We suffer from physical and emotional distress at higher rates than the elderly population as a whole. Prolonged malnutrition under the Nazis has affected our health, triggering osteoporosis and broken bones, heart problems, impaired vision, dental problems and high blood pressure. There are particularly high rates of dementia and schizophrenia among Jewish victims of Nazism. Many of us are alone as a result of having lost our entire family during the Holocaust.

We survivors are adamant about remaining in our own homes rather than entering a nursing home. To someone who endured incarceration by the Nazis, the prospect of institutionalization is frightening. It triggers memories and even induces panic. Home care, therefore, has emerged as one of our most pressing needs. As we survivors continue to age — we now average about 80 — home care, as well as medical and social services, is both crucial and critical.

Last year, following intensive negotiations with leaders of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, including myself, the German government finally recognized this problem and allocated a direct contribution for this urgently needed home care. Unfortunately, the approximately $8 million was a pitiful amount, a drop in the bucket.

The major portion of the funding for such services is presently supplied by the Claims Conference, through the recovery of unclaimed Jewish property in the former East Germany. Much of the property belonged to Jews for generations. The revenue from these properties, however, is rapidly declining. The Claims Conference is slowly running out of funds, due to the ever-increasing needs of elderly survivors.

Is it too much to ask the German government to provide Holocaust victims with the same medical care and home care given to former German soldiers — not only members of the German army, but also the vicious concentration camp guards and personnel who helped inflict such irreparable pain and suffering on their victims? I have heard German politicians and people from all walks of life express regret and shame for the brutal and inhuman acts committed by their forefathers. However, words are not enough.

Such sentiments bring little solace to survivors in need of medical and home care assistance. It seems to be a bit paradoxical to acknowledge guilt and shame, yet at the same time provide medical care for the perpetrators but not for the victims.

It is high time for the German nation to not only verbally condemn the acts of their forefathers, but also to seize a tangible opportunity to provide meaningful help to the victims of their forefathers’ cruel misdeeds. The present generation of Germans could be an example for history and also a role model to their children. The task they have at hand is to rectify, imperfect as the attempt might be, the inexcusable injustices that prevailed during the Holocaust.

Germany must do more than denounce the events of the Holocaust. Before it is too late, it must turn words into action. The German government should provide the urgent funds for the home care and medical assistance required by needy survivors. Sixty years after the Holocaust, this painful obligation remains pending. Needless to say, it has to be fulfilled at once — while the survivors are still alive.

Roman Kent, chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, is a senior officer of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.






Find us on Facebook!
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • 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.