Thought-provoking letter to the editor from David Schaecter, the president of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA, who claims that President Obama, despite supportive words to the contrary, has been hurting Holocaust survivors with his administration’s policies. At JTA:
Contrary to common sense, and to commitments made during the Obama-Biden campaign, this administration has consistently supported European insurance companies who defrauded Holocaust victims and dishonored our family insurance policies, even though the insurers failed to pay billions they owe to victims families. This is not acceptable—we are not only U.S. citizens, many survivors are American veterans and veterans of the Korean War. Yet because of the actions of the State and Justice departments, Holocaust survivors are second-class citizens under U.S. law. How can this be?
Further, tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors—50 percent of the American survivor population—live in or near poverty. Why would this administration block survivors from recovering the long-overdue debts owed by the wealthiest corporations in the world like Allianz, Generali and AXA? In March, the State Department again relied on a familiar litany of inaccurate statements in opposing legislation with broad bipartisan support that would restore survivors’ rights. The Foreign Affairs Committee rejected State’s bogus claims and passed the bill unanimously.
I don’t get the second-class-citizens remark, and I’m not sure how significantly the Obama administration policies differ from those of past presidents. (Survivors issues just don’t receive as much attention as they deserve.) But as someone who spent a summer helping primarily indigent Holocaust survivors—many live way below the poverty line—collect reparations from the German government, I hope that Obama and his presidential opponents hear Schaecter’s message.
Obama should soon have the chance. He’s speaking at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum today to commemorate Yom HaShoah.