The Claims Conference funds more than 100 Jewish organizations, primarily Jewish Family and Children’s Service agencies, in more than 20 U.S. states, to provide social welfare services for Nazi victims. More than four in five victims reside in just five U.S. states: New York, California, Florida, New Jersey and Illinois.
Of Nazi victims currently residing in the United States, three in five are women, and the proportion of female survivors will increase in the future, reflecting longer life expectancies for women. The average age of a Nazi victim is 82, but nearly one-quarter are age 85 or over.
The collapse of the U.S. housing market in 2007 continues to affect Nazi victims across the country, but particularly in Florida, where they face devaluation of both their homes in Florida and properties in states of previous residence. While Claims Conference funding has held steady, and in most instances has increased, the Claims Conference has noted an increase in emergency assistance requests for housing expenditures. Nevertheless, when combined with other funding, there has been a general retrenchment of services to Nazi victims in the United States, including:
:: Decreased contributions to Jewish organizations and other philanthropic bodies that have historically provided funding for geriatric and survivor services.
:: Loss of net worth of many Jewish federation endowment funds.
:: Cutbacks at the federal, state, and municipal level of programs that have benefited Nazi victims in the past, including homecare services, dental care, and food assistance programs such as meals-on-wheels.
Jewish victims of Nazi persecution living in the U.S. are more likely than other Jewish elderly and other American elderly to be living in poverty. Survey research shows that 25 percent of all Nazi victims live at or below the official U.S. poverty threshold, compared to 5 percent of American Jewish elderly who are not Nazi victims and 9 percent of all U.S. elderly. As is the case with survivors living in other countries, Nazi victims in the U.S. who are poor are also more likely to be disabled. Currently, approximately one-fifth of the Nazi victim population is estimated to be poor and disabled.
Direct compensation payments are made from the Article 2 Fund and the Hardship Fund. The Claims Conference negotiates on an ongoing basis with the German government to include additional Nazi victims in compensation programs, increase payments, and provide increased funds for social services.
The Claims Conference focuses on using a “Continuum of Care” model, in which it works with local Jewish Family and Children’s Service agencies and other Jewish organizations to create and sustain services that take into account the particular conditions and needs of Nazi victims in their communities, including the availability of public funding, such as Medicaid, for home- and community-based services. Continuum of Care includes case management services, homecare, health care, psychological services, food programs, and emergency assistance.
Case Management: Despite the availability of public programs that offer some home- and community based services, medical care, prescription drug coverage, housing assistance, and food assistance, all too often, Nazi victims do not fully benefit from these programs. Case management begins with a comprehensive assessment of the client’s situation. Case workers connect survivors with public and private programs and family resources and strive to provide seamless service delivery. They are especially trained to handle the sensitivities of Nazi victims.
Homecare: Home care services allow Nazi victims to remain in their homes as long as possible, even after they are disabled, by providing them with assistance with activities of daily living, including bathing, dressing, eating and housekeeping, and personal nursing care for those who need assistance with medication or medical equipment. They also ensure that minor home modifications are made so Nazi victims can remain in their homes.
Health Care: Despite near universal health care coverage through Medicare and/or Medicaid, needy Jewish victims of Nazism face financial difficulty when faced with even a small co-payment for a medical visit. Frequently, survivors are faced with a choice of paying for a prescription or purchasing food. Moreover, items such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, orthotics, prosthetic devices, incontinence pads, bed pans, wheelchairs and orthopedic beds, chairs, and shoes are often excluded from public coverage. Through its allocations program, the Claims Conference has worked with local agencies to provide subsidies to Nazi victims for the health care that they need.
Dental Services: Poor dental health is particularly acute in the Nazi victim population. The Medicare program does not include dental care, and it is severely limited under Medicaid. With Claims Conference funding, many local Jewish agencies have worked with local area dentists and oral surgeons to establish pro bono dental clinics, offering emergency treatment for relief of pain and infection, x-rays to assess state of oral health, and dentures and denture repairs. The Claims Conference also assists Nazi victims who cannot afford the high cost-sharing requirements of many public dental care programs.
Psychological Services: Holocaust victims’ special psychological needs have been known for many years. Many of the Claims Conference’s partner agencies provide therapeutic interventions, including counseling and Jewish spiritual care, support groups for Holocaust victims, and support programs for family members and caregivers.
Food Programs: Despite eligibility for the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, many needy Nazi victims remain at risk of food insecurity – that is, limited or uncertain availability of, or ability to acquire, adequate and safe foods – and hunger. Food programs, either by combining a home-delivered hot meal to a client (meals-on-wheels) with a friendly visit from a case worker or trained volunteer, or by inviting survivors to a local Jewish organization, offers Nazi victims both physical and spiritual nutrition by decreasing their isolation. Other food programs include food vouchers and cash grants that enable Nazi victims to purchase their own groceries as well as special holiday packages for Passover.
Emergency Assistance: Emergency Assistance programs provide short-term financial assistance to victims in acute or crisis situations. Funds are applied toward housing costs to prevent eviction, utility payments to prevent shut-offs, emergency relocation, dental care, medical care, homecare, client transportation, and other services such as winter clothing and funeral expenses. Emergency funds are used as a stop-gap measure until a victim can receive public funds or a long-term solution can be found. For example, emergency homecare would include short-term nursing hours, as opposed to long-term care, after a hospital stay. The goal of the program is to be flexible enough to respond to individual problems.
Client Transportation: Client transportation programs enable victims to obtain social services outside of the home, attend medical appointments, do shopping and necessary errands, and participate in social, recreational, and cultural events such as congregate meals, religious services, and Café Europa programs. By helping Jewish Nazi victims–particularly those with vision and hearing difficulties who are afraid to go out on their own–leave their homes, the client transportation programs relieve victims’ feelings of isolation and enable them to feel more independent.
Socialization Programs: The need to find meaning and feel connected, especially with other Nazi victims who can understand and share experiences from the past and present, is critical. Most agencies serving Nazi victims, and in many instances survivors themselves, have formed socialization programs, commonly known as Café Europa programs, so they can socialize within a support network. Programs frequently include speakers who provide information on a range of topics including compensation and restitution issues, older adult health care issues and general interest topics. These programs provide Nazi victims with a social framework and comfortable environment where they can be entertained and make friends among their peers. The sense of participating in events collectively is extremely important to the Holocaust victim population, as the isolation many feel now is in complete contrast to how they felt when they were younger, even in the worst of circumstances. As one Holocaust survivor noted, “When we had to stand at attention for hours, we stood together, propping up one another when weak. When we dug ditches we did it together, one holding and moving the arms and shovel for another who didn’t have strength that day. We were desperate, but never alone.”