Claims Conference DocumentaryToday we mark the Holocaust Memorial Day. Last year, the entire country was shaken after watching the documentary film The Morals of Restitution (Musar Hashilumin) . The film, created by the socially-conscious journalists Orly Vilnai Federbush and Guy Meroz, revealed the shameful economic conditions of so many of the holocaust survivors who live in Israel. More than 80,000 Shoah survivors live in atrocious poverty without some of the most basic means such as food and medicine. One survivor told the cameras shockingly that she had to go back to Germany, a place of her persecution, due to Israel’s lack of financial support. The film raised a pointing finger at the Jewish institutions including the Israeli banks, JNF (Jewish National Fund) and the Claims Conference, an organization established for the primary purpose of transferring restitution funds from Germany, for withholding payments of survivors who are literally dying in the meantime.

How could this happen in Israel, a state built by and for Jews? This is the question the audience of this documentary is left with. There was a point where things seemed as they were about to change. People protested and the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a speech emphasizing the importance of the Holocaust survivors for this country while promising to distribute special funds. It all turned out to be a mere media spectacle – survivors were given a one-time allowance of a few dozen NIS and were left forgotten again.

A year has passed since. In a sequel broadcast last night the journalists returned to further investigate how and whether things have changed. They didn’t. Many of the survivors passed away while others continue in their daily suffering. The sequel shows how the Claims Conference organization has turned into a corrupt money making machine accumulating fortunes for its own benefits and agenda.

In light of this, one must wonder how these people live with themselves. More importantly, how does our society allows this to happen? It is about time that we not only remember but wake up from our apathy and take action to protect these people from death in disgrace. The only positive thing emerging from this issue is the courage of the creators to speak out which highlights the true purpose of journalism.