Shoah Class Action Suit Children of Holocaust Survivors to Sue Germany

A class action suit is to be filed in Israel against the German government on behalf of the children of Holocaust survivors who are in urgent need of psychological treatment.

By David Gordon Smith in Berlin


Over 1 million Jews were killed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp during the Holocaust. Now children of Holocaust survivors are filing a class action suit against the German government.
DPA

Over 1 million Jews were killed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp during the Holocaust. Now children of Holocaust survivors are filing a class action suit against the German government.

A class action suit is to be filed in Israel against the German government on behalf of the children of Holocaust survivors.

The lawsuit, which will be filed in Tel Aviv on Sunday, will demand that the German government pay for the psychological treatment of children of Holocaust survivors living in Israel.

The suit is being filed by the Fisher Fund, an Israeli charity that helps Holocaust survivors, and will represent tens of thousands of Holocaust victims' children. The fund expects the number registered for the class action suit to soon reach 30,000 people, due to enormous media interest in Israel.

The suit is intended to benefit an estimated 15,000 children of survivors in Israel who are in need of psychological treatment as a result of being raised in dysfunctional homes. They suffer from depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders.

However there is little money available to pay for treatment -- neither from the Israeli government nor from other sources like the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which only supports direct survivors of the Holocaust and victims' heirs.

The class action suit is being filed after informal negotiations with the German government over a solution to the problem broke down. "We tried to negotiate out of court," Baruch Mazor, general director of the Fisher Fund, told SPIEGEL ONLINE Friday. "We had a very good contact in the German government, whom we met once. But he was instructed very strongly by the government in May not to talk to us any more, and he refused to take our calls. So we had no choice but to go to court."

He said there was "huge pressure" from the children of survivors, hundreds of whom came to a meeting the Fisher Fund recently held in Tel Aviv, to go to court after the negotiations broke down.

The Fisher Fund stresses that all they want is a solution to an "objective problem" and that the money will only be used to pay for treatment and an accompanying cultural project where interviews with children of survivors would be filmed. The money would not be given as compensation to survivors' children.

The suit contains case studies detailing the condition of five children of survivors, who volunteered their medical records and who are suffering from various levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The suit also includes a professional opinion by a top Israeli psychiatrist who confirms that clinical research shows a high frequency of emotional disorders among the children of survivors and identifies them as suffering from PTSD.

It is not clear what chance the suit has of success. "A lawsuit against the Federal Republic of Germany or its institutions in a foreign court is not admissable under international law," a spokesperson for the German Finance Ministry told SPIEGEL ONLINE in a statement. "The German government cannot, and will not, make any statements about the possible chances of success of a possible lawsuit ahead of that lawsuit being filed." In an earlier statement given to SPIEGEL ONLINE in April, the Finance Ministry spokesperson had said that a class action suit was "unlikely to succeed."

If the case does not succeed in Israel, Mazor says the Fisher Fund may file another suit in a German or international court. They are already collecting money to do so, he said. "But if the Tel Aviv court recognizes that the second generation are also victims, then that is already a significant step," he said.

Mazor spoke of "a huge and very positive reaction" to the Fisher Fund's campaign in Israel, where the case was featured in several leading Israeli newspapers Friday as well as on a leading radio station. "It's not just a lawsuit, it's the beginning of a movement," he said. "Germany will somehow have to react to the problem. It will have to adopt not only a legal position but also a moral position."

"People in Israel feel we are doing something moral and important," he said. "They say we are doing holy work."

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