International Law

Aging Nazi Victims Seek Home-Care Funds from Germany

Although World War II ended more 60 years ago, the horrors of the Nazi era are still alive in the minds of many Jewish survivors and others who were targets of Third Reich. As they aged, traumatic experiences they successfully suppressed for decades have come back to haunt them. Some lost contact with reality and are actually reliving their wartime years.

The problem is exacerbated for victims like Rachel Kane, now 96, who is in a Los Angeles nursing home suffering from dementia. The institutional environment can remind them of their experiences in Nazi concentration camps or in hiding, reports the Los Angeles Times (reg. req.). Showers, for instance, evoke a common method of killing truckloads of people newly arrived at concentration camps. Kane, who escaped by hiding in the forest with resistance fighters in Poland, now lives in a world in which her husband has been shot, her baby is dying of starvation and Nazi soldiers could come for her at any time.

Advocates are seeking more money from the German government to pay for home care for aging victims of the Nazi regime, to help them avoid the trauma of institutionalization. It has allocated about $50 million for such services, reports the Times, but there are nearly 700,000 survivors worldwide, and more than 120,000 live in the United States.

Home care is “one of our most pressing needs,” says Roman Kent, a survivor of the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp and a senior officer with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, in a 2005 editorial. “We survivors are adamant about remaining in our own homes rather than entering a nursing home,” he wrote. “To someone who endured incarceration by the Nazis, the prospect of institutionalization is frightening. It triggers memories and even induces panic.”

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