A man surveys the damage to the Lichtenstein leather goods store after the Kristallnacht pogrom. Photo courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The Blue Card, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding Holocaust survivors in the United States, is hoping to spread awareness of the many living survivors who are still in need of help. As the anniversary of Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass,” approaches on November 9 to 10, it should be noted that of the approximately 100,000 Holocaust survivors living in the United States today, around one-third live at or below the poverty line. It is estimated that 61 percent of the Holocaust survivors living at the poverty line live on less than $23,000 per year, making it difficult to afford proper medical care, mental health care, nutrition and other basic necessities.
“For those senior citizens that survived the atrocities of the Holocaust, many are struggling to make ends meet in the face of a growing number of medical issues, the rising cost of living and challenges navigating the health system,” said Masha Pearl, Executive Director of The Blue Card. “The mission of The Blue Card, to help survivors live their remaining years in dignity, is incredibly time-sensitive as Holocaust survivors age into their 80s, 90s and 100s, and at least 50 percent alive today will pass away within the next 10 to 20 years. As we remember this dark time, we are looking to the larger community to spread awareness about those still in need, and to help us find others who can use a helping hand.”
As the number of survivors declines, the need for financial assistance of those still alive increases. Studies have found that Holocaust survivors face a higher rate of chronic and acute illness such as cancer and heart disease, frequently leading survivors into financial distress due to a growing amount of medical bills. This can be attributed to various health issues dating back to the famine and elements they were exposed to during the war.
Not only do these individuals suffer from physical injuries and disabilities, but they are permanently living with psychological and emotional scars of the atrocities they faced during the horrors of the Holocaust. These scars are exacerbated in their old age, as many are lonely and isolated. Due to the loss of spouses and family support systems, an estimated 75 percent of these individuals live alone, and more than 80 percent have difficulty performing the routine activities of daily life. Additionally, welfare and food stamps are discontinued for elderly hospitalized 30 days or more, frequently without notification, causing stress, confusion and financial distress for those recently hospitalized.
To date, The Blue Card has provided more than $30 million to thousands of survivors and their families. The Blue Card helps more than 2,500 Holocaust survivor households with ongoing, direct financial assistance for most basic needs such as food, rent and utility shut-offs, as well as for emergencies such as medical care, dental care and special medical equipment, along with many other programs. For more information about how you can help, visit bluecardfund.org.