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Their official title is The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany but they are often referred to as simply the Claims Conference.
This group has been around and trusted for over 50 years to oversee German government funds that help Holocaust survivors.
To give you a perspective, the Claims Conference, a non-profit organization, oversees several funds and is in charge of processing thousands of applications each year.
The FBI has reported charges against 17 individuals, including six insiders, for stealing more than $42 million from the organization and the legitimate Holocaust survivors they serve.
The two funds that are at the center of the investigation are the Article 2 Fund and the Hardship Fund.
The Article 2 Fund makes monthly payments to Holocaust survivors who make less than $16,000 a year. To qualify, survivors of the Nazi persecution had to either have lived in hiding or in a Jewish “ghetto” for 18 months or have spend at least 6 months in a forced labor camp or concentration camp.
The Hardship Fund makes available a one-time payment of $3,600 to survivors forced to leave their hometown and become refugees.
When the system works:
The way the process is supposed to work is that survivors living in the United States can make a claim by mail to the office in Manhattan. Applications are checked against databases and sometimes are followed by personal interviews. When a survivor is approved, a check is mailed or made by direct deposit.
How the fraud worked:
Insiders, including the former head of both the Hardship Fund and the Article 2 Fund recruited, sometimes unwilling, people of Jewish ancestry. Stories were fabricated and documents such as birth certificates were altered. When checks arrived, the victims were allowed to keep a portion and the rest went to cover “fees” for the conspirators and was often paid in cash.
Janice Fedarcyk, New York Assistant Director in Charge, said that the victims of this scam were “those who had already suffered at the hands of Nazi persecution only to have their experiences exploited again—this brazen miscarriage of the compensation program is, in its own way, a kind of crime against humanity.”
Sadly, the investigation is showing that parts of the scam began all the way back in 1994 when the German government first began making payments.
Faina Davidson, a long time employee, allegedly approved applications in days that it took other case workers up to 60 days to verify and approve. Ms. Davidson left the country in January and was arrested when she returned last month.
The New York office will be closed down. Although claims will continue to be received in the United States, they will only be processed in Germany.
Following any tragedy, stories of heroism and generosity abound. Sadly, the stories of corruption, like the Haiti scam and the Japan scam and now this Holocaust survivors scam are just unbelievably low down and dirty.