Blue Card sponsors PTSD program for Shoa survivors

Blue Card sponsors PTSD program for Shoa survivors

Naomi and Asher Niederman in 1951, after their arrival in the United States. Photos courtesy Niederman family
Naomi and Asher Niederman in 1951, after their arrival in the United States. Photos courtesy Niederman family

Naomi Niederman of Springfield survived the war by hiding in a Red Cross shelter in Budapest. Her husband, Asher, was born in the country formerly known as Czechoslovakia and endured a Hungarian labor camp during World War II. Both belonged to a Zionist youth organization called Habonim Dror.

They met in Budapest just after the city was liberated in January 1945 and traveled together to Romania and then to Palestine — in time for Asher to fight in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. Eleven years later, the couple moved to Newark, where he worked in a bakery, then drove a taxicab. 

The Niedermans receive monthly $300 stipends from Blue Card, an organization that has provided financial aid to Shoa survivors for more than 70 years. They are very appreciative of the funds. “It means a lot,” said Asher. The money, he told NJJN, enables them to cover the costs of their medical insurance copayments.

Blue Card is now expanding its assistance by training caregivers in the treatment of  post-traumatic stress disorder. “We want to make sure the medical personnel are aware of these traumas and know how to work with Holocaust survivors,” said Milana Baazov, the organization’s associate executive director. 

Blue Card, a New York-based charitable organization, began in Germany in 1934 as a way of organizing Jews who were becoming increasingly threatened by the Nazis. Because many German Jews were losing jobs, and Jewish doctors and lawyers were not permitted to practice, a fund was established to aid the unemployed; blue cards (and cards of other colors) were given in appreciation for those who donated to the collection.  

Then, in 1939, some of the founders immigrated to New York and set up a Blue Card organization in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Following World War II, its mission was to aid Holocaust survivors who live in poverty.

Since then it has done so on a monthly basis, today serving 2,500 survivors in 32 states, 30 of the recipients NJ residents. Most live on small, fixed incomes; an average annual income of $23,000, based on Blue Card’s estimates. That figure does not include Food Stamps, Medicaid, Social Security, or reparations, according to Baazov.

Thanks to a $120,000 grant from the Jewish Federations of North America, Blue Card will start to run sensitivity training sessions for physicians, dentists, and other medical professionals who treat survivors. Many of the survivors suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and the emotional damage from their experiences remain.

“Some survivors fear white coats and doctors as a result of the ‘medical experiments’ they were subjected to by Josef Mengele and other Nazi scientists,” said Baazov. She added that dentists are an important component of the assistance program because of the poor teeth many survivors sustained due to being malnourished during the war. 

“Our goal is to make sure survivors can remain in their homes as long as possible,” she said. “Some have a fear of being institutionalized. We have a homecare program that provides survivors with financial assistance so that they can hire people to assist them during the week.”

The Niedermans received $20,000 from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which makes payments to Holocaust survivors with funds appropriated by the government of Germany. They live in a house owned by their two sons.

“I lost my family,” he said. “I had three sisters, a father and grandfather and uncles and cousins and nobody came back,” he said.

Still, the Niedermans prefer to focus on the family they have now. They have four grandchildren and are about to become great-grandparents for the fourth time. “I have a beautiful family,” Asher said. “I can’t complain.”

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