After Years of Stalling, Hungary Resumes Social Welfare Funding to Holocaust Survivor

Following protracted discussions over the course of several years, the Hungarian government has agreed to release $5.6 million in previously committed funds for social welfare services for needy Holocaust survivors of Hungarian origin living outside of Hungary. These funds will be distributed through the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference). That organization can now resume its worldwide distribution to social services agencies outside of Hungary that assist Hungarian Holocaust survivors with daily living. Additionally, the Hungarian government committed to continuing negotiations for the restitution of assets.

“Nearly 70 years after the persecution and mass murder of Hungarian Jews by the Nazis and their local collaborators, the government has fulfilled its previous agreement to support elderly Hungarian survivors,” said Greg Schneider, Claims Conference Executive Vice President. “We very much appreciate the critical support of State Secretary Janos Lazar for this significant initiative that will enable elderly survivors in need to live with an added measure of dignity and comfort.”

The money will be a lifeline for survivors who require homecare, medicine, meal delivery, transportation, emergency cash grants, winter relief, case management and socialization programs. Such services enable survivors to remain living in their own homes for as long as possible, a primary goal of the Claims Conference.

Earlier this year, with the appointment of Janos Lazar to the position of State Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, a new tone was taken by the government, which seemed to change course from placing obstacles in the way of transferring the funds, to trying to work cooperatively to resolve whatever issues remained in the way of the funds’ transfer.

In 2007, the Hungarian government pledged $21 million to be distributed over the course of five years to assist Holocaust survivors in Hungary and abroad. The Jewish Heritage of Hungary Public Endowment (MAZSOK) – a restitution foundation in Hungary composed of local Hungarian Jews, government officials and the World Jewish Organization (WJRO) – was tasked with administering one-third of the funds to survivors currently living in Hungary, while two-thirds of the funds were transferred to the Claims Conference to fund social welfare services for needy survivors living outside of Hungary.

But in 2010, a new government came to power in Hungary, and the transfer of funds to the Claims Conference in the final two years of a five-year commitment was suddenly suspended in 2012, leaving survivors deprived of the assistance they had come to expect and which they so desperately need. The $21 million represents an advance payment on a hoped-for larger agreement to provide compensation for the heirless and unclaimed formerly Jewish-owned assets confiscated by the Nazis during the Holocaust and/or subsequently nationalized by the Communist regime after the war.