Some people have an inflated ego, while others have an inflated sense of importance. Irina Rutman, of Schechter Holocaust Services, describes herself as having an “inflated sense of justice.” That becomes apparent when she describes her work here at JF&CS and how she has been able to improve the lives of Holocaust survivors seeking compensation from Germany through the Holocaust Victim Compensation Fund.
When a client was wrongly accused of fraud by the German administrators of the Fund, Irina went into action. In 2009, three Claims Conference employees in New York were accused of stealing some $57 million from the fund through a bizarre scheme of creating fictitious Fund recipients and channeling the money to themselves (just recently they were convicted of their crimes in Federal Court).
Upon discovery of the fraud, the Claims Conference put a stop to all payments and sent Fund recipients a detailed questionnaire requiring proof of birth, proof that they were in a camp or a ghetto, specific dates, etc. The recipients, all elderly, were hard-pressed to track down the required paperwork when they had already submitted this information well over a decade ago. As a result, many were unable to provide the requisite documentation. In some cases, dates on the new questionnaire did not match the dates given on their original applications submitted to the Fund.
These clients then received letters from the German administrators telling them that their claims were “fraudulent.” However, the German authorities did not provide any information or explanation as to why their cases had received that determination.
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