Archive for the tag 'german consulate'

Photo by Joe Comperiati

It’s hard to put into words the scope of the tragedy of the Holocaust. The millions of victims of that outrage should never be forgotten and the few survivors that remain living should never be ignored.

Life, with all its joys and sorrows, carries on, and while survivors of the Holocaust may feel blessed to be decades removed and a world away from those dark days, many were devastated by the recent events of Superstorm Sandy.

Thankfully, these battered brave souls have not been ignored, as a slew of donations from the German Consulate, German charitable organizations and German corporations have poured in to help survivors with expenses incurred to their homes as a result of Sandy, according to a report in the Jewish Week.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, led by executive vice president Greg Schneider, had organized tours to Coney Island just weeks before the storm struck to keep up to date on the condition of Holocaust survivors living in the area.

“When the storm occurred, we got in touch with the German government and German industry,” [Schneinder] said. “Because of their visit to Coney Island and other parts of Brooklyn last year they had a mental picture of the area and knew exactly what we were talking to them about. I was able to say, ‘Remember, we went to this soup kitchen and met 10 survivors who talked of their experience in the ghetto.’ I told them that each of their homes had been flooded and that they had no electricity. And we sent them pictures we took of the area, as well as written material. And Rabbi Wiener sent them pictures of his office and of water rising in the streets.”

The German government’s awareness of the devastation caused to the communities in which many survivors live, spurred them to gather donations adding up to $4,000 from the Consulate itself, and inspire other German organizations to donate sums as well.

 As a result of that outreach, Schneider said the GDV, an association of all German insurance companies, donated $26,000 to Sandy relief efforts. He said the giant German insurance company Allianz donated $50,000 to help restore the infrastructure of the JCC of Greater Coney Island.

“We had specifically mentioned that building to them, reminded them that they were there and that the entire office was destroyed,” Schneider said. “It was not a lavish office, by any means, but it lost all of its basic equipment — telephones, fax machines, computers, tables and chairs — and it all must be replaced. They came up with the number of $50,000 and have already sent a check.”

In addition, Schneider said, the board of the Claims Conference allocated $250,000 to help Holocaust survivors caught in the storm.

Image courtesy of the office of State Senator David Storobin

When she was a young girl, Klara Zubutova was detained as a prisoner at a concentration camp. Today, the Holocaust survivor is entitled to pension payments from the German government, which are not subject to taxation.

Last week, Zubutova received a letter in the mail — written in German — from Bundeszentralamt fur Steuern, which is the tax law service of Germany (translated, it means the Federal Central Office for Taxes).

Confused, Zubutova went to see Senator David Storobin’s staff in the hopes that they may help her translate and understand the letter. Turns out, the German agency was trying to collect taxes on Zubutova’s pension payments.

Storobin wrote a letter to the German consulate in New York City, which confirmed the error with a return letter.

According to a release from Storobin’s office, the German consulate replied, “It is a matter of course that Holocaust survivors have to be treated with the highest respect and consideration. I very much regret that those concerned feel inappropriately treated.”

The German government exempted Klara from the taxes.

Storobin urges other survivors who receive any confusing mail to contact his office at (718) 743-8610.

“The German government was contrite when I contacted them. But we just can’t know how common this is,” Storobin said. “My district in Brooklyn has thousands of survivors. Today, they are all senior citizens. I hope that they are not erroneously paying taxes on their German pensions.

“Let me be clear: you don’t owe a dollar to the German government for surviving the Holocaust,” concluded Storobin.