Nearly 80 years after the Holocaust, 245,000 Jewish survivors are still alive

Stanislaw Zalewski, Holocaust survivor (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk, File) (Michal Dyjuk/)

Almost 80 years after Holocaustsome 245,000 Jewish survivors are still alive in more than 90 countriesa new report revealed on Tuesday.

Almost half of them 49% live in Israel; 18% in Western Europe, 16% in the United States and 12% in countries of the former Soviet Unionaccording to a study by the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also known as the Claims Conference.

Before the release of the demographic report, there were only vague estimates of how many Holocaust survivors are still alive.

Their numbers are declining rapidly, as most they are very old and often in fragile health, with a average age 86 years. 20% of survivors are over 90 years old, and There are more women (61%) than men (39%) alive.

The vast majority, 96% of survivors, are “child survivors” born after 1928, according to the report Holocaust Survivors Worldwide. A Demographic Overviewwhich is based on figures collected through August.

Holocaust survivors
In this file photo from 1943, a group of Polish Jews are led away for deportation by German SS soldiers during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto (AP Photo, Archive) (anonymous/)

“The numbers in this report are interesting, but it is also important to look beyond the numbers to see the individuals they represent,” he said. Greg Schneiderexecutive vice president of the Claims Conference.

They are Jews who were born into a world that wanted to see them murdered. “They endured the atrocities of the Holocaust in their youth and were forced to rebuild an entire life from the ashes of the camps and ghettos that destroyed their families and communities.”

Six million European Jews and people from other minorities were murdered by the Nazis and his collaborators during the Holocaust.

It is not known exactly how many Jews survived the extermination camps, ghettos or hid somewhere in Nazi-occupied Europe, but their numbers were far from the pre-war European Jewish population.

In Poland, of the 3.3 million Jews who lived there in 1939, only about 300,000 survived.

About 560,000 Jews lived in Germany in 1933, the year Adolf Hitler came to power. By the end of World War II, in 1945, their number had decreased to about 15,000, due to emigration and extermination.

Germany’s Jewish community grew again after 1990, when more than 215,000 Jewish emigrants and their families arrived from countries of the former Soviet Union, some of them also survivors.

Currently, only 14,200 survivors still live in Germanyaccording to the demographic report.

One of them is Ruth Winkelmann, who survived by hiding with his mother and sister in a garden shed on the northern outskirts of Berlin. Her father died in the Auschwitz extermination camp. Her younger sister, Esther, died of illness, hunger and exhaustion in March 1945, just weeks before the liberation of Berlin by the Soviet Red Army.

Holocaust survivors
Ruth Winkelmann, 95, one of the Holocaust survivors (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) (Ebrahim Noroozi/)

Winkelmann, who is 95 years old and still lives in Berlin, said that There has not been a day in his life when he did not remember his beloved father. “It always hurts,” she said. “The pain is there day and night.”

For its new report, the Claims Conference said it defined Holocaust survivors “based on agreements with the German government to assess eligibility for compensation programs.”

For Germany, that definition includes all Jews who lived in the country from January 30, 1933, when Hitler came to power, until May 1945, when Germany unconditionally surrendered in World War II.

The group manages the claims on behalf of Jews who suffered under the Nazi regime and negotiates compensation with the German Ministry of Finance every year. In June, the Claims Conference noted that Germany had agreed to grant additional 1.4 billion dollars for Holocaust survivors around the world in 2024.

Holocaust survivors
The train tracks where hundreds of thousands of people arrived to be directed to the gas chambers inside the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz Birkenau (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file) (Markus Schreiber/)

Since 1952, the German government has paid more than 90 billion dollars to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis.

The Claims Conference administers several compensation programs that provide direct payments to survivors around the world, awards grants to more than 300 social service agencies around the world, and ensures that survivors receive services such as home care, food, medicine, transportation and socialization.

It has also launched several educational projects that illustrate the importance of transmit the testimonies of Holocaust survivors to the younger generations, as their number is decreasing and antisemitism is on the rise again.

“The data we have accumulated not only tells us how many survivors there are and where they are, but it clearly indicates that the majority of survivors are in a period of life in which their need for care and services is increasing,” he claimed Gideon Taylor president of the Claims Conference.

“Now is the time to redouble our attention to this dwindling population. “Now is when they need us most.”

Winkelmann, the Berlin survivor, He did not speak to anyone for decades about the horrors he suffered during the Holocaust.not even with her husband.

Holocaust survivors
Ruth Winkelmann (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) (Ebrahim Noroozi/)

But in the 1990s, she was approached one day by a stranger who looked at her necklace with a Star of David pendant, asked if she was a Jewish survivor, and asked if she could talk about her experience to her daughter’s school class.

“When I first started talking about the Holocaust, in front of those students, I couldn’t stop crying“Winkelmann declared to the agency AP last week. “But since then I have talked about it many times, and each time I shed fewer tears.”

Although she affirms that the chapter of terror that she and all the other survivors experienced will never be closed, Winkelmann He has made it his mission in life to tell his story. At 95 years old, he continues visiting schools throughout Germany and has a message for his listeners.

“I tell the children that we all have a God and that, although we call him different names and pray different prayers, we should not focus on what separates us, but on what unites us,” he explains.

“And even if we don’t agree, we should never stop talking to each other.”

(With information from AP)