Germany censures judge for helping Holocaust survivors

A German judge is facing reprimand for exposing how the German legal system regularly prevents Holocaust survivors from receiving money they are owed.

Colette Avital, the head of the Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, told Arutz Sheva about the judge's actions and the legal proceedings against him. "This is a 49-year-old German judge who began to work with Holocaust survivors about a decade ago," she began.

The judge in question, Jan-Robert von Renesse, has been helping survivors who sued for compensation over their manual labor in the ghettos. As he progressed, he found that many other judges had rejected the claims over bureaucratic excuses and improperly completed forms.

"The judge understood that the elderly survivors may not have understood how to properly fill out the forms. So he came to Israel, filled out the forms with them, asked them to show him on a map where they had been, and thereby helped them fill out the forms properly. He is truly one of the righteous among the nations," Avital continued. She explained that the manual laborers were forced to pay the government from the little money they received for their work, which is the basis for what the survivors are now requesting.

"They were eligible to receive reparations and the judge understood that they are prevented because of bureaucratic problems. The issue was resolved, but his big crime was that, when he discovered how they rejected the claims, he opened his mouth and said how things really work."

She noted that many people in Israel criticize the conduct of the judicial system, yet no one has been taken to court for doing so. In Germany, however, "they put him on trial for this about two weeks ago. Now we are waiting for the verdict."

"We cannot intervene in the German justice system but we can and must express solidarity with a person who did all he could in order to help Holocaust survivors."

She added that she submitted a petition to the local government in North Rhine-Westphalia, which people are still signing. "We sent the petition to the government authorities there. I believe that it was accepted and I expect that the government can speak with the Justice Minister about the Holocaust survivors he helped. There is also the matter of public opinion and we can make the public understand that it is unreasonable to prosecute a man for helping. There is constructive criticism here to improve the system and that may be what it does."

Avital was asked how the judge himself feels about the controversy. She has only spoken with him over the phone but answered, "He understands that the judges he criticized are looking for revenge because he opened his mouth and said they are acting wrongly. He says that they waited for two years until the issue quieted down and then submitted the complaint, forcing the justice system to act. He is very pleased with the support he receives."

The German judicial committee is expected to decide how to deal with Judge von Renesse within the next few days. It is possible that it will ban him from further working with the survivors.


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