Lawmakers ease burden for Holocaust survivors
Banks waive fees so victims of persecution can receive their full share of compensation
By Kristin Erekson
PAGE 2NEWS DECEMBER 8, 2006 THE JEWISH ADVOCATE
Local lawmakers and banks are easing the financial burdens of Holocaust survivors through a voluntary initiative that waives wire transfer fees needed to receive overseas restitution payments. During a press conference held at the Massachusetts State House on Dec. 1, area officials announced the launch of the Holocaust Restitution Payment Fee Waiver Program and its goal to recruit banks to help survivors of Nazi persecution receive their full benefits. About 60 of the state’s 180 financial institutions – such as Middlesex Savings Bank and TD Banknorth – have already decided to participate.
“We don’t often get the chance to match up consumer issues with something this compelling,” said Janice S. Tatarka, the state’s director of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABAR).
“It’s a small contribution, but it acknowledges that we are here to help them.” Rosian Zerner, a representative of the Greater Boston Child Survivor Group and member of the governing board of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust, helped to spearhead the waiver initiative about six months ago.
Zerner, who is Lithuanian and a victim of Nazi persecution, pushed the program after several survivors complained to her about added fees being deducted from their restitution checks. Although the average charge for a wire transfer is a small price to pay – about $15 – the money can rack up for victims, who are on-average 80 years of age and living on modest or fixed budgets.
“I’m so thrilled [that the waiver program] is finally happening,” Zerner said. Nearly 3,000 Holocaust survivors reside in the Bay State, and many are receiving compensation from Germany or other European countries, according to OCABAR’s statistics. Monthly reimbursements received from Germany can vary from $250 to $900 a month.
Newton resident Israel Arbeiter, 81, a survivor of Auschwitz, has been getting restitution payments from the German government since 1992. He said it’s impossible to forget the atrocities he experienced, from not being able to walk on the sidewalk in his hometown in Poland to his younger brother’s and parents’ deaths in concentration camps.
“There is no amount of reparation that can compensate for the suffering that was done to Holocaust survivors,” said Arbeiter, who is the president of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston. While several banks in California and New York have implemented the waiver program on a voluntary basis, Massachusetts is the first to enroll a large collaboration of financial institutions, according to the state’s Commissioner of Banks Steven L. Antonakes. Said Antonakes: “For these survivors, every dollar counts.”
For more information about the Holocaust Restitution Payment Fee Waiver Program, contact Rosian Zerner at (617) 244-1029 or Rosian@Zerner.com.it,” she added.
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