Once again, the Conference on Material Claims Against Germany is under attack for malfeasance and worse. The organization devoted to seeking justice for the survivors of the Shoah has been a favorite target for more than six decades of some of the very people it has worked unceasingly to help.
In the present instance, there are legitimate questions that need to be answered. The Claims Conference, as it is commonly called, dropped the ball in 2001 when its attention was first directed to possible fraudulent activity involving spurious claims made by ineligible claimants.
What is ignored almost always is that it was the Claims Conference that ultimately exposed the wrongdoing in 2009 when it turned to the U.S. Attorney’s office to launch an investigation. The result of that investigation showed that $57 million had been illegally paid out over a 17-year period. Prosecutions followed – prosecutions that would not have been possible without the Claims Conference’s total and unfettered cooperation, according to the prosecutors themselves.
More egregious than such omissions, however, is the fact that the fraud is only the icing on the cake for the conference’s detractors. Over the years, they have demonized such heroes of the Jewish world as the late Rabbi Israel Miller of blessed memory, Saul Kagan, Julius Berman, and others – not because they did anything wrong, but because they chose to give more money to survivors who had nothing than to those who were able to rebuild their lives.
An internal investigation into allegations of a cover-up is now under way, headed by the chairman of the Claims Conference Executive, Reuven Merhav. He is a former ambassador of Israel who served in posts in Africa, East Asia, and the Middle East. He helped build a relationship between the Jewish State and China. As director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he played a significant role in planning Operation Solomon, the covert operation that rescued nearly 15,000 Ethiopian Jews over a 36-hour period in 1991 and brought them to Israel.
He is able and he is honest. Let Merhav do his job. And stop demonizing people who set their personal lives aside to give more to the Shoah’s neediest survivors than to the ones who needed it least.