Yad Vashem Hall of Names

The survivors were documented living in 90 countries, with 49% of them located in Israel.

By Vered Weiss

There are approximately 240,000 holocaust survivors alive today, according to a new report, which highlighted the growing challenges of providing care for this aging population.

The report was released by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which periodically reviews the needs of survivors to negotiate with Germany on their behalf.

The most recent report broke down information on survivors by age and country.

The oldest living survivor is Rose Girone, who lives in New York and is 112 years old.

Girone’s daughter Reha Bennicasa, is 85, around the median age for survivors today (86).

Reha Bennicasa said, “My mother will be the first to tell you, we’re very lucky all around.”

Of the remaining Holocaust survivors, the majority (61%) are women.

The survivors were documented living in 90 countries; 49% of them are located in Israel, 18% in North America, another 18% in Western Europe; and 12% in the former Soviet Union.

Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference, emphasized that the needs of survivors is increasing as the population ages and requires greater medical attention.

Taylor said, “Now is the time to double down on our attention on this waning population. Now is when they need us the most.”

The Claims conference organization negotiates an amount with Germany for the care of survivors. Last year, it was $1.4 billion, which was distributed through various local agencies.

The funds are required to provide food, medicine, social assistance and at-home nursing care, while a portion is also used for Holocaust education.

The story of the oldest Holocaust survivor, Rose Girone and her daughter Reha Bennicasa began in Germany, where Rose’s husband Julius was imprisoned in Buchenwald camp and was released if he promised to leave the country with his family.

They fled to Shanghai, which was occupied then by Japan, and the family was made to live as refugees in a tiny room that was a converted bathroom.

Rhea said, “Our experiences were not like people in camps, people that were branded in any fashion. Our experience was so different,” she said. “And for me as a child,  whatever circumstances you’re given as a child, you accept them. This is your life.”

It was in Shanghai that Rose knitted to make a living and she later started a sewing business to support herself and her family when they moved to New York.

Rose has been living in a nursing home for the past two years, and Rhea comments, “She goes with the flow and rolls with the punches,” said Bennicasa.

She repeated her mother’s advice, “Don’t ever get up without a purpose. You have to have a purpose every day.”