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June 30, 2015 8:58 pm

European Parliament Shines Light on Plight of Holocaust Survivors

avatar by Michael Zeff / Tazpit News Agency

The gates to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The gates to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A day-long seminar entitled “Living with Dignity” was held last Tuesday at the European Parliament in Brussels, focusing on the experiences and current hardships of European Holocaust Survivors, and the restitution of stolen property from the Nazi era.

The event was hosted by Dutch Member of European Parliament Bastiaan Belder of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR). MEP Belder is the Vice Chair of the Delegation for Relations with Israel at the European body, and an avid fighter against anti-Semitism in Europe.

Guest speakers and participants included Tibor Schlosser, the Israeli Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues; Avi Weber of the Israeli Ministry for Senior Citizens; Halyna Senyk, executive director of the European Shoah Legacy Institute; the Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands, and others.

The event included an exhibition, and an eyewitness account by Holocaust survivor Simon Gronowski. The seminar was held in cooperation with the Claims Conference, the European Shoah Legacy Institute, and the European Jewish Community Centre.

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“The main issue of the seminar was the well-being of Holocaust survivors in Europe today,” MEP Bastiaan Belder told Tazpit News Agency. “Sadly the majority of Holocaust survivors live in poverty, bad health conditions, and constant trauma.”

The average age of Holocaust survivors in Europe is 85, and most live in below average conditions and are still awaiting full restitution. This despite the Terezin Declaration on restitution of property, which was signed by 46 nations in 2009.

“Our goal is to promote the welfare and benefit of Holocaust survivors through the European Union, in Parliament, and the European Commission,” Belder told Tazpit. “I urge all countries to respect the obligations from 2009.”

Belder is optimistic that the event and the initiative will indeed encourage bold action and raise awareness. “The seminar and exhibition drew a good crowd and was well attended,” said Belder, “not only members of the Jewish community, but the general public, and members of European parliament from across all political groups. We are already discussing a follow up event towards the end of the year.”

“We all aspire to live in dignity. This aspiration has to include the survivors of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, which happened in our own continent,” Belder concluded.

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