Agencies providing aid to elderly Jewish Holocaust survivors living in the Baltimore area will be given a substantial increase in funds through 2017 thanks to an agreement reached between the Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or the Claims Conference, and the German Finance Ministry.

Jewish Community Services, a human services agency in Central Maryland, will receive $1.4 million this year — an increase from $600,000 in 2014 — for services, mainly home care-related, for survivors. The Baltimore-based Ahavas Yisrael Charity Fund is also tobe given $65,000 for its food program for survivors.


The Claims Conference has negotiated with the German Finance Ministry for funds for Holocaust victims across 47 countries since 1952. Since 2004, those talks have included the allocation of money for home care. Over the course of the funding period beginning in 2014 and ending in 2017, the German government will have given $1 billion for social services for Holocaust survivors, not including the money it continues to award separately through compensation programs.

"The German government is responsible and has accepted responsibility for many, many, many years and has been cooperating with the Claims Conference to make these dollars available worldwide," said Barbara Gradet, executive director of JCS. "So they've claimed responsibility, they are responsible, and clearly the statistics and the documented need is something they're responding to."

Gradet said that JCS, which has offices in both Baltimore County and Baltimore City, served more than 300 survivors last year. She said that the funds awarded this year will be used to provide for numerous health and service-related areas of need.

"We're required to use 65 percent of our grant for home care, but there are other areas that we fund that are very important as well," she said. "The Claims Conference allows us to use these dollars. They are primarily targeted to home care … but there are also funds targeted for emergency needs like prescriptions that aren't covered or eye care or dentures."

Of all of the services for Holocaust victims being given, the main area of need recently has been home care. Jewish survivors, now elderly, and their families, are being faced with the difficult choice of entering a care facility. For many survivors, this prospect can cause extreme distress and anxiety.

Felicia Graber, a 74-year-old Holocaust survivor living in Baltimore City, said the idea of moving into an unfamiliar environment could be extremely difficult for elderly survivors to handle.

"I can only imagine that for somebody who is very frail and maybe mentally not quite as clear, being moved into an establishment, into a home with others and not having the privacy [they're used to] must be very, very traumatic," she said. "Those who were in the concentration camp, it might even remind them of that … nursing homes, as good as they are, it's not the same thing as being at home."

Julius Berman, president of the Claims Conference, said German negotiators made the decision to increase funding because they understood the overwhelming need for such home care.

"Now when [survivors] are at the stage where they're older, more infirm, frail and still at home, they need more than ever," he said. "The one thing that I believe [the German negotiators] recognized more than ever is that survivors more than ever are overwhelmingly fearful of being institutionalized. So when we talk about home care as another element for help for older people, it's become more and more paramount. And we've seen how people at this stage of life are in many cases bedridden, [they have an] overwhelming fear of leaving the home they're comfortable with, the neighbors they're comfortable with, their family, and ending up in an institution … to the extent they can possible stay out of it, they will do so as best as they can. We at our part have gone to the Germans and requested them to raise the level of response to this need, and they also realize that there's no such thing as giving someone home care this year and not next year."

Gradet explained that such home care will include meal preparation, support with activities, and whatever else individuals need to be able to continue living in their own homes.

"[Home care is] paid aides who come into the home and help people with grocery shopping, with meal preparation, with bathing, whatever areas of their lives [like] their regular activities [in which] they may need support, and that could be because of a physical limitation as they're aging, as well as cognitive issues, such as people experiencing dementia or Alzheimer's. So it covers those day-to-day services that people need to be able to live in their own home safely."

Graber said the increase in funding is extremely important to providing survivors with the care they need.

"I think it's absolutely wonderful because some of the funding that was available up until now was not sufficient and a lot of the survivors that needed it either didn't get enough to be able to stay home and get home care or even some of them had some difficulty buying food," she said. "So I think that this extra funding is going to be vital and is going to make a very big difference in improving their quality of life."

Berman praised the German government, not just for its ongoing efforts to fund services for Holocaust victims, but also for its commitment to educating the German people about the need for such continued financial support.


"The German government, especially those connected to us in the Finance Ministry, has gone above and beyond," he said. "The German people have gone out of their way to let their people know that their obligations have not expired and that they go on. They said this area will never be affected by the weakness at any one time in the German economy."

Graber said it is vital that survivors like herself know that they are still being remembered despite the passage of time.

"I think it's very, very important for the mental health of the survivors to know that they are not forgotten," she said. "And that people are not saying 'OK, let's go on [and] forget about it.' [It's important that they know] that we are taking care of you, we didn't forget you, we know you've gone through horrible times, that horrible things happened to you, and we are doing the best we can to give you quality of life in your last years, for as long as possible."

Reach Times Staff Reporter Elaina Clarke at 410-857-3316 or elaina.clarke@communitytimes.com.

For more information:

Survivors residing in Central Maryland who are interested in receiving services may visit the Jewish Community Services website at http://www.jcsbaltimore.org or call the organization at 410-466-9200.