By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)-- Hungary's center-right government said Saturday, July 6, it had reached a multimillion dollar deal with a US-based Holocaust restitution organization on compensation for Hungarian survivors living abroad, prompting some angry reactions from former Nazi death camp inmates.
János Lázár, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's chief of staff, said the deal ended a year-long row over alleged accounting irregularities and a freeze of payments to survivors.
"The government has concluded an agreement with the Conference of Material Claims Against Germany," Lázár said in a statement.
"In order to now faster disburse restitution monies, the government will transfer $5.6 million within three days," he added in remarks distributed by Hungarian news agency MTI.
The politician made clear that the funds would be transferred to the Jewish Heritage of Hungary Public Endowment (MAZSOK), a Hungary-based committee made up of government officials and Jewish representatives, which liaises with what is also known as the Claims Conference
However not all Holocaust survivors agree with the deal, said 84-year-old Nikolaus (Miklós) Grüner, a survivor of Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Poland where he lost his parents and younger brother.
"I am against the deal and they should immediately stop it," stressed Grüner, who was forced to leave his native Hungary at age 15 and now lives in Malmo, Sweden.
"The Claims Conference is a corrupt Mafia organization. They never paid people like me a penny," he told BosNewsLife in a telephone interview. Grüner said he had been approached by several Hungarian Holocaust survivors to publicly protest the deal.
"That money should have stayed in Hungary. I proposed to the Hungarian government that people like me could invest their compensation money for instance in Hungarian kosher food products," he explained.
"This way we create jobs and help to end the anti-Semitism in Hungary by reaching out to Christians and others."
His remarks came just days after The Jerusalem Post newspaper reported that Claims Conference was delaying the results of an internal probe into the organization’s response to a $57 million fraud perpetrated against it for 16 years.
The controversy at the Claims Conference centers around a 2001 anonymous tip-off letter sent to the conference which resulted in two internal probes that failed to uncover the financial wrongdoing.
"For some reason politicians want to work with thieves," complained Grüner.
"The Claims Conference takes all the money, but the Jews in Hungary are afraid to speak about it. Many survivors have even no money for breakfast, while the Claims Conference has their money."
He has written letters to Hungary's government demanding 350 million forints in compensation for the assets confiscated from his family, after they were deported as cattle in an overcrowded train from Hungary to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Hungary signed a five-year agreement with the Claims Conference in 2007 for the distribution of $21 million (16 million euros) to Hungarian Holocaust survivors but broke off talks on an extension of the agreement last year amid concerns over transparency.
However Lázár said they had agreed to contract an international auditing firm, KPMG, to monitor the fairness of the disbursements.
Earlier this year meager state pensions for Holocaust survivors were hiked with 50 percent by the government.
Roughly 600,000 Hungarian Jews died in World War Two, when Hungary for the most part was a close ally of Nazi Germany.
About 100,000 Hungarian Jews live in Hungary today, the biggest Jewish community in Eastern Europe outside Russia.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
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