Elderly victims of Nazi persecution to receive aid through IOM

Roma childern at Lety concentration camp

The International Organisation for Migration, the IOM, is supporting projects in the Czech Republic and Ukraine that are geared towards helping elderly members of minority groups who survived the Nazi atrocities of WWII. So what does such assistance involve? Dita Asiedu has more:

Following discussion about compensation to holocaust victims, the IOM has been given the task of providing humanitarian aid to those needy elderly members of minority groups who fell victim to Nazi persecution but were never compensated. These groups include the physically or mentally handicapped, Jehovah's witnesses, homosexuals, and the Roma community - all of whom were to be exterminated as part of the Nazi vision of Europe.

Under the IOM's humanitarian and social programmes, aid such as food, medical and dental care, home care, winter assistance and emergency financial assistance will be granted to those selected by humanitarian NGOs. Rostislava Krivankova is from the IOM office in Prague:

"It is desirable to let the beneficiaries know from what sources the assistance is supported - from the Swiss banks and the German Foundation. Our only ambition is to choose the best service providers who deliver the maximum assistance to the needy and elderly survivors with the minimal overhead costs."

Although the group of people to whom the humanitarian aid is to be granted has been extensively narrowed down, NGOs are expecting to process thousands of applications. The task of verifying Nazi persecution is a difficult one as many cannot provide proof. According to Mrs Krivankova, however, the problem is not a serious one:

"Under humanitarian and social programmes, it is not important to verify persecution as it is under other compensation programmes. The beneficiaries should be needy and elderly survivors from the mentioned victim groups and to identify the eligible beneficiary is the responsibility of the service providers, the NGOs."

There is no doubt, however, that the NGO's responsible have their work cut out for them. Mrs. Krivankova expects some 5000 beneficiaries from the Roma minority alone to apply for aid:

"We have the first feedback from the implementation of the programme and generally I can say that the elderly Roma appreciate this programme very much because it is the first one, which focuses on seniors. Each project is primarily for education, for children, for cultural activities and this programme is the first with special care for the old people."

Although the project was started in the Czech Republic and Ukraine, pilot programmes are to be launched in six countries. The other four to follow are Poland, Hungary, Romania, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.