JPost - NGOs demand German Shoah group pay victims
- JPost - Tue, Oct 4, 2011
The Jerusalem Post
NGOs demand German Shoah group pay victims
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
Foundation accused of misusing 20,000 euros to fund programs that
delegitimize the Jewish state.
BERLIN – A German foundation called EVZ, set up to compensate slave
workers during the Holocaust and fight contemporary anti- Semitism, is
being taken to task by Israeli, US, and German NGOs for its failure to
remedy its reported misuse of public funds to support anti- Israel
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor,
told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that “It is very troubling that the
Remembrance Responsibility Future (EVZ) Foundation has not provided
specific steps to compensate victims of the Nazis and educate about the
horrors of the regime.
“Instead of fulfilling this goal and combating anti- Semitism – both
part of the Foundation’s mandate – EVZ has funded German and Arab
student programs that present distorted views of the Arab-Israeli
conflict, compare Israeli policies to those of previous, repressive
German governments, and developed student materials with anti-Semitic
images and texts,” added Steinberg.
NGO Monitor, a prominent watchdog organization, has exposed over the
years European NGOs who misappropriated public funds to undercut
Israel’s legitimacy as a state. According to NGO Monitor, the group
closely monitors the work of European NGOs and their misallocation of
funds “to promote the Palestinian narrative, and not for peace-building
measures based on mutual understanding.”
The EVZ was founded in 2000 with a contribution of 5 billion euros by
the Federal German government and German industry to compensate former
slave and forced laborers during the Nazi period. A segment of the EVZ
funds are designed to finance educational projects.
Steinberg told the Post that “The EVZ misused 20,000 euros to fund
programs that actually contribute to the delegitimization of Israel.
This information has been presented to EVZ, and yet the Foundation
refuses to say how it will remedy the situation. The German government,
which funds EVZ, should immediately cease funding and stop all
operations until a complete evaluation of committee members, funding
mechanisms and programming is complete.”
The Post reported last week that EVZ used German-taxpayer funds to
publish school booklets depicting Israel as a violent state that
discriminates against Israeli- Arab pupils. The school brochures equate
Israel with the former communist East German state and assert that
Palestinians and Germans are both victims.
The Nazi regime, historians say, frequently invoked the anti-Semitic
argument that Germans were the victims of Jewish plots.
Multiple Post e-mail queries to the chairman of the EVZ, Dr. Martin
Salm, and the EVZ spokesman, Dietrich Wolf Fenner, were not returned in
connection with whether the misused funds for anti-Israeli activities
will be returned.
The EVZ refused to answer additional Post queries about criticisms last
week from the European Jewish Congress, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and
the American Jewish Committee. The EVZ told the Post last week that the
foundation plans to review their programs.
The Berlin-based office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) urged the
EVZ last week to “review its human-rights program guidelines and create
targeted programming to combat anti-Semitism and contribute to a
balanced understanding of modern Israel.”
“A foundation that was initiated by the German government and industry
to honor the lives of millions of Nazi slave and forced laborers should
give priority to initiatives that promote good relations with Israel and
fight modern forms of anti- Semitism,” said Deidre Berger, director of
AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German- Jewish Relations.
Berger added that “Unfortunately, programs combating anti-Semitism
constitute an extremely small part of the foundation’s annual program.
And some programs, reflecting a skewed humanrights agenda, may do more
harm than good.”
Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s director of International Jewish Affairs, is a
member of the EVZ Board of Trustees.
“I fully expect that there will be a thorough discussion about this when
the board meets in December. The reputation of the EVZ Stiftung hangs in
the balance.” said Baker.
“The German government must assert its role on the EVZ Board of
Trustees,” said Anne Herzberg, an NGO Monitor legal adviser.
She added that “The time for excuses is over. The German government has
a responsibility to fix this problem now. The educational damage done to
students can be reversed by teaching them about the true values of human
rights, tolerance, and the realities of anti-Semitism. Most importantly,
the government needs to direct funding to survivors, as it was initially
Sacha Stawski, head of the German watchdog organization Honestly
Concerned, which monitors anti-Semitism in the German media, told the
Post on Sunday that “Sadly, though, Dr. Salm, someone who has been
working for an institution, which sets its goal on ‘remembrance,’
‘responsibility’ and ‘the future,’ for so many years, really has not
understood a single thing about anti-Semitism when he then goes on to
say that ‘he is absolutely sure that none of the caricatures are
Stawski, whose organization is slated to launch the largest pro-Israel
European conference on October 23 in Frankfurt, added, “Wake up, Dr.
Salm: It was your job to teach these youngsters not to be anti-Semites
and yet, at the end of your project, they come out drawing hate-filled
anti-Semitic caricatures. You failed. Your [publicly financed] project
failed. And instead of admitting your mistake and admitting that there
is a lot more work to be done, you tried to silence your critics.
“You should have know better and it is you, yourself, who has most
certainly disqualified himself from being an expert on the German
Interior Ministry’s Panel of anti-Semitism experts, let alone an
educator for an institution like the EVZ.”
Salm, the head of the EVZ, is a member the German Federal government’s
commission on anti-Semitism. The commission is expected to issue a
report on efforts to combat anti-Semitism in early November.