People who survived the persecution by National Socialists are now very old. Many are single, have few financial resources and are dependent on external support. They still suffer physically and emotionally from their traumatic experiences to this day. Since its establishment, the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future (EVZ) has been committed to ensuring that survivors of National Socialist persecution have a better life and are able to grow old with dignity.
No one can be certain how many people persecuted by the National Socialists and imprisoned in concentration and extermination camps are still alive today. Comparable cross-national studies or statistics are still lacking.
Jews, Sinti:ze and Rom:nja in Germany and in the territories occupied by Germany (who were born before May 8, 1945), former concentration camp and ghetto prisoners and Soviet prisoners of war, former forced laborers (both those who were deported to Germany and those who had to perform forced labor in the respective country), survivors of the Leningrad Blockade or the burned villages, and the children of the persecuted who were born before liberation.
Most survivors of National Socialist persecution did not find it easy to regain their footing in the post-war period – either on the professional nor the social level. Very few have had the opportunity to come to terms with their traumatic experiences. There was little anything like psychological support. Furthermore, post-war society – above all in Germany – didn't want to know about the victims and their suffering. Often, as in the case of the Sinti and Roma, they were denied recognition as victims of National Socialism and consequently also denied compensation payments. Survivors of the Soviet forced laborers deported to Germany, for example, were treated with suspicion because they were considered traitors who had worked for the enemy. Instead of receiving support, they were subjected to more repression and persecution.
Survivors themselves, often out of shame that they – in contrast to their family members – had survived the persecution, also secluded themselves in silence and even isolated themselves from their surroundings. As a result, many survivors were left to fend for themselves, in many cases for decades. They were in urgent need of support, including material support, in order to build a new life for themselves. Severely traumatized, and in many cases robbed of their families and possessions by the National Socialists, many survivors had to start from scratch after 1945 and pay a high price for the suffering they had endured: Poverty, lack of social participation and loneliness.
Since its establishment in 2000, the EVZ Foundation has been committed to ensuring that survivors of National Socialist persecution have a better life and are able to grow old with dignity. In particular, it supports projects in Central and Eastern Europe and also in Israel which integrate survivors more at the social level and ensure that their basic needs are met. It promotes (model) projects for appropriate social and medical care and strengthens the intergenerational dialog. In addition, the EVZ Foundation works on the sociopolitical level to ensure that politics and society are aware of their special responsibility for the needs of survivors of National Socialist persecution and respond accordingly.
The EVZ Foundation highlights its special commitment to survivors in its Agenda for the Future, which was adopted in June 2021. The mission statement there states first: The EVZ Foundation “supports survivors of National Socialist persecution and strengthens the commitment of their descendants.” The primary activities in the “Support for survivors of National Socialist persecution” cluster are aimed, among other things, at a dignified aging of survivors, their participation in society or at coming to terms with and acknowledging National Socialist persecution.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made the lives of many survivors even worse. Many of the very elderly no longer leave their homes for fear of Covid-19 infection, leaving them in a state of complete social isolation. Project partners report that for Holocaust survivors suffering with psychological problems, social isolation and the feeling that the world is falling apart at the seams again with the pandemic can have a serious re-traumatizing effect.
Funded projects for survivors have been adapted to the exceptional Covid-19 pandemic situation. These projects include telephone counselling services which are available to survivors and their relatives around the clock – for example concerning questions about Covid-19 vaccinations or hygiene and distancing regulations – new digital therapy formats, online supervision and training for therapeutic staff or practical instructions for fitness activities and memory training via social media channels. Project partners who are supported by the EVZ Foundation also ensure that the survivors apply for the special Covid-19 payments approved by the federal government in 2020 and 2021. The social media campaign #WeRememberEveryday run by the EVZ Foundation is a testimony to the value of these activities.
Some of the individual support, telephone counseling and online services for survivors will be continued by the project sponsors after the pandemic. Support for immobile survivors, e.g. through visiting services, will be further expanded. Very important for counteracting loneliness and strengthening cohesion are the group meetings, encounter cafés and other offers of social participation that are taking place again. A special example of this is the art group for survivors at the ZWST in Frankfurt/Main, which was able to show its exhibition in the Frankfurt Römerhallen in February 2023. In Berlin, Heidelberg and Nuremberg, three new local alliances for survivors are being funded as part of a two-year pilot phase until the end of 2023.