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On eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel home to 165,800 survivors

Social Equality Ministry says 15,324 survivors died in 2021, a daily average of 42 fatalities — many of them victims of the coronavirus pandemic

Illustrative: A man in a mask and protective gear stands near a banner depicting a Holocaust-era yellow Star of David, in Tel Aviv on April 21, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)
Illustrative: A man in a mask and protective gear stands near a banner depicting a Holocaust-era yellow Star of David, in Tel Aviv on April 21, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel is home to 165,800 Holocaust survivors, according to data released on Wednesday by the Ministry for Social Equality and Pensioners ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Israeli state agencies define as survivors anyone “exposed” to the Nazi regime, including those who lived in countries conquered by Nazi Germany or were under direct Nazi influence in 1933-1945, as well as refugees who fled those areas due to the Nazis.

Today’s survivors are all over 75 — World War II ended 75 years ago — and around 19% of them are over the age of 90.

Over 950 Holocaust survivors living in Israel at the end of 2021 were aged 100 or more.

As women generally outlive men, they make up 60% of the survivor population. The percentage of women rises as each cohort ages.

Nearly two-thirds, or 64%, of those hail from Europe. Of these, 59,900 were born in the former Soviet Union, 19,100 in Romania, 8,900 in Poland, 4,500 in Bulgaria, 2,400 in Hungary and 2,300 in Germany.

In this 1943 photo, a group of Polish Jews are led away for deportation by German SS soldiers during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto by German troops after an uprising in the Jewish quarter (AP Photo)

The other 36 percent immigrated from Asia and North Africa, with 30,600 born in Algeria and Tunisia and 18,000 from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Those from the Muslim world fled Nazi-inspired pogroms, such as the 1941 Farhud pogrom in Iraq, or Nazi-controlled or Nazi-allied territories where they faced restrictions on daily life, such as in Vichy-ruled Morocco and Tunisia.

About 40% of the survivors had immigrated to Israel by 1951, and more than a third in the last wave of immigration in the 1990s from the former Soviet Union.

The past year saw 15,324 survivors pass away, a daily average of 42 fatalities, with many being victims of the coronavirus pandemic.

The ministry also reported that in 2021, the state transferred about NIS 4.1 billion ($1,287,000,000) in benefits and direct grants to survivors. Some 50,800 survivors received monthly benefits ranging from NIS 2,554 ($801) to NIS 6,412 ($2,012) depending on their degree of disability.

Holocaust survivor Yehoshua Datsinger places tefillin on his arm above the Auschwitz concentration camp identification number tattoo, during morning prayer at a synagogue, in Bnei Brak, Israel, September 21, 2020. (Oded Balilty/AP)

Of these, 15,500 low-income survivors received increased monthly benefits up to NIS 11,729 ($3,681). An additional 111,600 beneficiaries received annual grants of NIS 6,500 ($2,040). It was also reported that 3,400 survivors who received benefits from abroad were given an additional grant of NIS 2,538 ($796) every three months.

In addition to direct grants, the ministry also paid monthly allowances to 18,000 widows and widowers of Holocaust survivors.

It also provided full expenses for medical coverages and nursing services at a cost of more than NIS 1.34 billion ($421,000,000).

The ministry also approved NIS 3,615,928 ($1,135,000) in the past year for Holocaust commemoration initiatives.

“The average age of Holocaust survivors is 85. These are the last years we have to serve them, allow them to grow old with dignity and also document their stories as much as possible. Because very soon, there will no longer be anyone to tell them,” said Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen.

“With this understanding, we act daily with a sense of urgency before time runs out. We have recently taken a series of steps to exercise their rights, many of them actively and proactively designed to reduce and eradicate the phenomenon of poverty among Holocaust survivors,” Cohen said.

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