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Holocaust Survivors Live 'Close to Desperation'—in US

30K around NYC are living in poverty
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2015 2:51 PM CDT
Holocaust Survivors Live 'Close to Desperation'—in US
This file photo shows the words 'Arbeit Macht Frei' (Work Sets You Free) at the main entrance of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany.   (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

(Newser) – About 30,000 Holocaust survivors living in New York City and three surrounding counties are at or below the poverty line, the Wall Street Journal reports. After enduring Nazi horrors, fleeing their homelands, and struggling to make new lives in America, advocates say the plight of these survivors grows more serious as they age and require increased medical care, money for basic living needs, and other assistance. Now a coalition of groups led by the Survivor Initiative is trying to get $1.5 million from the City Council to help those survivors who need it the most—including those who lived through the double (or triple) whammy of 9/11 or 2012's Superstorm Sandy.

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"It's very tough," 75-year-old Jose Urbach tells the newspaper. Urbach lost his job to downsizing at age 62, has fought prostate cancer, and sometimes has to borrow money for food and medical bills. Survivors like Urbach "live close to desperation," the UJA-Federation of New York says. A Selfhelp report updated in 2013 predicts that nearly 24,000 survivors will be living in the New York area in the year 2025 and that 35% of them will be dealing with serious or chronic illnesses, many linked to the poor living conditions and torture they endured from the Nazis, per the Journal. They also may not have a strong support network if family members didn't make it through the Holocaust. (One inspiring survivor: Emily Kessler made her Lincoln Center debut playing the mandolin at age 97.)

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