The Legacy of Saul Kagan, z”l
Founder of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany

On March the 19th, the ceremony honoring the legacy of Saul Kagan took place at Sheba Medical Center’s Geriatric Rehabilitation Center in the presence of Julius Berman from the US, President of the Claims Conference, Greg Schneider from the US, Vice President of the Claims Conference, Ms. Colette Avital from Israel, Chairperson of the Organizations Center of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, Prof. Zeev Rotstein, director and CEO of Sheba Medical Center, and many Israeli and American guests and representatives of the Claims Conference. The highlight was the unveiling of a stone erected in Saul Kagan’s memory.

(from l to r) Julius  Berman, Avi Dichter, Colette Avital, Prof. Zeev Rotstein,      Avner Shalev - Yad va Shem, Ben Helfgott from the UK (Holocaust survivor and Olympic gold medalist)

(from l to r) Julius Berman, Avi Dichter, Colette Avital, Prof. Zeev Rotstein,
Avner Shalev – Yad va Shem, Ben Helfgott from the UK (Holocaust survivor and Olympic gold medalist)

The event was a tribute to Saul Kagan and his life’s work. Kagan passed away two years ago at the age of 91. He dedicated his life to championing the rights of Holocaust survivors.

Prof. Rotstein saluted Saul Kagan in his speech:

“Saul Kagan was the architect of Holocaust compensation and restitution. He made it his life’s calling to attain a small measure of justice for those Jews who had managed to survive the Shoah, and in so doing, became the backbone of an unparalleled historic endeavor.

Saul Kagan never thought any credit for himself. His work was always about making something happen, finding the way through, solving the problem – it was never about him. All that mattered was that the cause was right and that the result would benefit those who needed the most.

Saul Kagan left his birth town Vilna, a city claimed by both Lithuania and Poland between the two world wars. It was then occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, the year he left at the young age of only 18 – just in time before it was invaded by Germany. He settled with relatives in New York, joined the United States Army in 1942, and afterwards became the founding director of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, which was created in 1951. Even after retirement in 1998, he remained involved in compensation negotiations into his last years.

In November 2013, at the age of 91, Saul Kagan passed away. Some called him an overlooked hero of postwar Jewish history. He himself described his achievement as only “a small measure of justice” and remarked that “a thousand years of history, destroyed in 12 years” were beyond compensation.

During more than 60 years, hundreds of thousands of holocaust survivors received payments.

At the same time, due to the special situation in Israel, with many medical departments over populated by aging people, we encountered the situation that many holocaust survivors are patients in those departments. These under-budgeted departments created a reality of corridor and dining room spaces filled with hospitalization beds – actually, a very humiliating condition for the patients.

We salute the Claims Conference for not ignoring the needs and nurturing the respect for these “public patients” in a variety of hospitalization departments.

The decision of the Claims Conference to recognize this specific and necessary need resulted in the renovation and improvement of facilities, adding more spacious department rooms than before, thus avoiding unnecessary suffering for holocaust survivors due to hospitalization conditions. This dramatically improved their stay at the hospital.

We at Sheba, as the committed guardians of these survivors, salute the late Saul Kagan and the Claims Conference. For many years already, due to their support, not only the holocaust survivors but also our general elderly patient population benefit from these blessed activities.

Thank you for enabling Sheba Medical Center to build and renovate our hospitalization departments and provide dignified care, treatment surroundings and ambience for the holocaust survivors.

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