Sara Miskatel, Greece

Sarra, recovering from a broken arm and leg, anxiously awaits her pension payments from the Claims Conference, which helps her to pay for a now-necessary homecare aide in the midst of Greece’s economic catastrophe. Read Sarra’s story.

Caring for Holocaust Victims Living with Economic Disaster

Elderly Nazi victims have been severely affected by the continuing economic disaster in Greece, which has devastated the government social service network. The Claims Conference has more than tripled its allocations since 2011 to the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (“KISE”), which aids Holocaust survivors throughout the country with home care, medical care and other services. Although this help is greatly appreciated, the needs of Nazi victims are overwhelming, as more people have become impoverished and the situation has become worse for survivors who were previously receiving aid.

Knowing the desperation that exists, the Claims Conference has prioritized reaching out to every survivor in the country who is now eligible for a pension from the Article 2 Fund due to liberalized criteria negotiated in late 2011.

The plunge in the real estate market has significantly reduced Jewish communal sources of income, without which KISE cannot support its institutions and members’ needs. In addition, a growing segment of the younger generation is unemployed, and the elderly have seen their pensions dramatically reduced during the past year. As a result, the number of needy applicants for social services provided by KISE has increased considerably.

In this dire social and economic situation, Holocaust victims have particular difficulties, as many of them have ended up abandoned or without the financial support of their families and find themselves forced to live alone even when unable to fully care for themselves. Each retired person now receives on average about €400 a month from the state; and with recently enacted new taxes due to the crisis, seniors receive even less than that amount. This reduced pension is expected to cover all expenses, though it is substantially less than what is actually needed.

Property taxes are now mandatory, even for those who have no income, and a temporary electricity tax has been extended. After the government removed the subsidy on home heating oil in January 2013, the cost increased about 50 percent. Anti-Semitism is again rearing its ugly head, in the form of the fascist Golden Dawn political party, whose officials have made statements denying the Holocaust occurred and have accused the Jewish community of brainwashing students with Holocaust educational programs.

KISE represents the eight main areas in which the Jewish community resides (Athens, Corfu, Halkis, Ioannina, Larissa, Thessaloniki, Trikala, and Volos) and with Claims Conference funding provides homecare, transportation, medical equipment, and emergency financial assistance. Elderly Nazi victims are finding that they must now support unemployed children. Shoah survivor Louna Rafail of Athens supports her unemployed son and a daughter with mental health issues. Louna is grateful to the Claims Conference for her Article 2 pension and for the homecare aide who helps her. “If I didn’t have Article 2 and the Jewish Community of Athens, I could not survive,” she said.