Seed the Dream president: As we remember the 6 million killed in the Holocaust, let’s not forget the 245,000 living survivors

New survey by Claims Conference finds a population of Holocaust survivors, mostly in Israel, who need more assistance than ever

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day this Saturday, the world will commemorate the murder of 6 million Jews. This year, just over three months after the largest number of Jews killed in a single day since World War II and amid a global outbreak of antisemitism, that need to mark and mourn the victims of the Nazi regime is yet more poignant

Yet Marcy Gringlas, the daughter of Holocaust survivors who works on their behalf, told eJewishPhilanthropy that there is an even more critical task than remembering those who perished — caring for the approximately 245,000 survivors who are still alive, especially now as 20% of them are over 90, resulting in increased need for care and services, according to a new report from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, more commonly known as the Claims Conference.

“The more we understood and learned, the more we were shocked about what wasn’t being told about the situation that [some] Holocaust survivors are living in; to make decisions between food or rent and dental care or adult diapers,” said Gringlas, president of Seed the Dream Foundation, a private grantmaking foundation that initially focused on improving educational access but since 2019 has teamed up with Kavod – Ensuring Dignity for Survivors to include a special focus on helping impoverished Holocaust survivors.

The study, “Global Demographic Report on Jewish Holocaust Survivors,” found that the nearly 250,000 living Holocaust survivors are spread out across more than 90 countries, though roughly half live in Israel. The United States has the second-largest survivor population with 38,400. 

Some 18% live in Western Europe — mostly France and Germany — and approximately 12% reside in countries of the former Soviet Union.

The median age of Jewish Holocaust survivors is 86, the youngest being 77 and the oldest being 112. The majority of Jewish Holocaust survivors are female (61%). Nearly 40% of survivors receive monthly payments through Claims Conference programs negotiated with Germany, while the remaining population is eligible for one-time or annual payments. Survivors’ needs include homecare, food, medicine, transportation and socialization, the Claims Conference found.

“We discovered that there was a food insecurity problem with these survivors and access to getting their medications,” Gringlas said, noting that her organization’s partnership with Kavod has directed more than $25 million to Holocaust survivors in 41 communities across the U.S. “We set up a model of national partners, we have a big coalition of people who step up and match our dollars to provide home care as many of these people don’t want to leave their homes,” she said.

“In some communities it’s difficult to match because they too are struggling,” Gringlas continued, noting that after the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, it has become increasingly difficult to raise funds for Holocaust survivors in the U.S. because “in the most lovely, united way the Jewish community has come together to support emergency services that are required and will continue to be required and so it’s not like Holocaust survivors are forgotten, but the allocations are different.” 

This past year, the Claims Conference secured nearly $1.5 billion dollars in direct compensation and home care services for Holocaust survivors for 2024 from the German government, following extended negotiations.

At the time, Claims Conference’s executive vice president, Greg Schneider, told eJP that additional funding will be needed for Holocaust survivors for the next few years as their needs grow, despite the fact that more survivors will die each year.

Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference, called for advocates to “double down” on their efforts on behalf of survivors.

“The data we have amassed, not only tells us how many and where survivors are, it clearly indicates that most survivors are at a period of life where their need for care and services is growing,” Taylor said in a statement. “Now is the time to double down on our attention on this waning population. Now is when they need us the most.”

Gringlas’ father, a survivor of Auschwitz, died in 2021. She said that her mother, who survived the Holocaust as a baby by being hidden in a non-Jewish home in Slovakia, “is part of a class of survivors who have lived long enough to unfortunately see history repeat itself. 

“Following the horrific massacre of Oct. 7, and amid the historic rise in antisemitism in the United States and around the world, Holocaust survivors are the remaining witnesses to history’s darkest chapter. They know antisemitism because they lived it, and they are sadly watching it again. They have much to teach us as history seems to be repeating itself, and we now have a new generation of ‘survivors,’” Gringlas said, adding that “[My parents] are what inspires me every day in the work I do.”