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HSF Response to Claims Conference 2018
Letter from Naomi Vifko, Corporate M.D.
I am a psychiatrist and the daughter of two survivors of Auschwitz, as well as other slave labor and concentration camps. The area of Czechoslovakia in which my parents and their families lived was given to Hungary at the time of the Munich Agreement. My father, William Vilko, was in and out of a “forced labor regiment” in Kiev for two years prior to being incarcerated in a ghetto, followed by a train ride to Auschwitz in late May of 1944. My mother, Olga Vilko, was also transported to Auschwitz during that time period. Their property was taken away by Hungarian Nazis, who continued to live in their homes after their liberation at the end of the war.
For seven years, South Florida Holocaust survivors have protested at the annual Allianz PGA Golf Championship here, calling for giant German insurance company Allianz, A.G. to pay more than $2.5 billion owed survivors for paid-up insurance policies before WW II. After large crowds and extensive international media coverage in the early years, attendance dwindled as many South Florida survivors became too weak to participate and were discouraged by Allianz’s refusal to meet them face-to-face.
Nearly half of all Holocaust survivors worldwide live at or below the poverty level, and are now struggling to make ends meet. In the United States alone, there are almost 50,000 survivors that are unable to afford their medical and home care costs. This is a disgrace; humanity is once again failing Holocaust survivors, yet few are speaking out on their behalf. That is why, alongside my South Florida colleague Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), I have introduced H.Con.Res. 129 — a resolution urging Germany to honor its commitments and its moral obligations to Holocaust survivors and to provide for the needs of all Holocaust survivors.
We are not saying that it is our determination as the Congress of the United States that because of what the Nazis did to these survivors, Germany is responsible for their care. We are simply urging Germany to reaffirm and honor its own commitments made to Holocaust survivors. Since Chancellor Konrad Adenauer pledged in 1951 Germany’s obligation to make moral and material amends to survivors, successive German governments have reaffirmed this obligation. And while the German government has taken steps to provide care for survivors, these steps have been woefully inadequate even by Germany’s own admission.
But Congress is in a unique position to work on behalf of our constituents to ensure that justice is won and that they receive the proper care and support they need to live out their days in dignity. The time for action is now.
HSF-USA vigorously opposes the re-appointment of Stuart Eizenstat as Special Adviser for Holocaust Issues by Secretary of State John Kerry.
In 2009, Mr. Eizenstat became the “Chief Negotiator” for the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC), a non-survivor NGO which has for well over a decade been deservedly criticized by Holocaust survivors for its policies that have caused massive harm to indigent survivors, its lack of transparency and accountability in the handling of Holocaust-related properties and funds, its grossly excessive executive salaries, its use of restitution funds for pet projects including grants to board members and cronies of organization officials, and its opposition to Holocaust survivors’ legal rights to recover unpaid insurance policies sold to our parents and grandparents, among other outrages.