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Ahead of annual memorial day, 161,400 Holocaust survivors living in Israel

Average age is 85.5, with over 1,000 over age 100; social equality minister notes urgency in providing assistance as some 40 survivors die each day

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Joseph Kleinman, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor who survived Auschwitz and Dachau Nazi death camp wearing a face mask as he stands at his porch in Jerusalem, during the Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 21, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Joseph Kleinman, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor who survived Auschwitz and Dachau Nazi death camp wearing a face mask as he stands at his porch in Jerusalem, during the Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 21, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

There are 161,400 Holocaust survivors living in Israel, according to figures published Wednesday by the Social Equality Ministry ahead of the coming Holocaust Memorial Day.

The number includes those who were victims of antisemitism during the Holocaust period, according to a statement from the ministry’s Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority.

The average age of Holocaust survivors is 85.5, with 31,500 over age 90 and more than 1,000 who have lived for over a century.

Over the past year, 15,553 survivors died in Israel, an average of more than 42 a day.

Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen said “the goal is to help the survivors live with the dignity they deserve, along with commemorating the memory of the Holocaust and its victims.

“Under the shadow of the fact that over 40 survivors depart from us every day, our mission is extremely urgent,” she said.

Cohen noted that over the past two years Israel has secured NIS 1.5 billion ($455 million) in compensation from the German government for survivors and that negotiations on the matter are still ongoing.

“The order of the hour, due to the situation of the survivors and their advanced age, requires the rapid mobilization of all those involved in the effort to advance appropriate solutions for Holocaust survivors,” she said.

Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen, attends a meeting, in the Knesset, on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel officially marks its annual Holocaust Memorial Day on Thursday.

Among those living in Israel, 63 percent were born in Europe. Among European survivors, 37% are from countries of the former Soviet Union, 12% from Romania, and 5% from Poland. An additional 2.7% are from Bulgaria, 1.4% from Hungary, 1.4% from Germany, and 1% from Czechoslovakia or France.

An additional 18.5% of survivors are from Morocco and Algeria, where they suffered discrimination and harassment under the Nazi-allied Vichy government. A further 11% are from Iraq, survivors of the Farhud pogrom of June 1941. Seven percent are from Libya and Tunisia, countries that during the Holocaust passed racist laws against Jews and imprisoned their communities in labor camps. Some of the Jewish community were also sent to Italy’s Giado concentration camp in Libya.

Over the past year the survivor’s authority spent over NIS 5.7 billion ($1,727 billion) on survivors, with a focus on increasing grants and expanding resources for those experiencing loneliness, stress and anxiety, the statement said. Of that amount, NIS 4.25 billion was provided as direct benefits and grants.

Among survivors, 48,000, or 31%, survived camps or ghettos, lived under false names or went into hiding, or worked in forced labor, sometimes alongside their parents. They now receive a monthly stipend that ranges from NIS 2,254 to NIS 6,412, depending on their circumstances. Of those survivors, there are 15,300 who are considered to have a low income and they receive additional monthly benefits that can be as high as NIS 11,729, the authority said.

A further 109,000 survivors receive annual grants amounting to NIS 6,500, the statement said. There are 3,300 survivors who receive benefits from abroad.

Monthly stipends are also paid out to 18,000 widows of Holocaust survivors.

Over the past year, waivers on the cost of medications amounting to NIS 373 million were also provided, NIS 673 million covered care living services and another NIS 128 million went to medical treatments and equipment.

“The authority has a national and moral duty to care for the welfare of the survivors,” said director Avremi Torem.

Holocaust survivor Bracha Ghilai, 75, shows her tattooed arm at her house in Holon near Tel Aviv, January 23, 2005. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic over two years ago, the authority expanded its services relating to alleviating loneliness for survivors, increasing to 6,500 the number of volunteers participating in its Now Is The Time project, who commit to making weekly visits to survivors. During the same period, the authority also expanded the range of psychiatric treatments provided as part of a support system operated by professional therapists, it said.

More recently, the authority prepared to provide assistance to any Holocaust survivors among the refugees arriving in Israel from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The northern port city of Haifa has the most survivors with 11,000, followed by Jerusalem with 10,000, then Tel Aviv, where some 8,700 survivors of the Nazi genocide live.

Other cities with significant survivor populations are Ashdod (8,000), Netanya (7,900), Beersheba 6,900, Petah Tikva (6,500) and Rishon Lezion (6,400.)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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