For­mer Soviet states fail­ing on resti­tu­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY LIANNE KOLIRIN

EASTERN EURO­PEAN coun­tries are still fail­ing to re­turn or com­pen­sate for prop­erty stolen from Jews by the Nazis.

An in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day heard that while most western Euro­pean coun­tries had largely ful­filled their obli­ga­tions, many for­mer Com­mu­nist states had not.

The Holo­caust (Shoah) Im­mov­able Prop­erty Resti­tu­tion Study ex­am­ined all sig­nif­i­cant leg­is­la­tion passed by the 47 en­dors­ing states of the 2009 Terezin Dec­la­ra­tion on Holo­caust Era As­sets since 1945.

The study found that eastern Euro­pean na­tions were still hold­ing a “sub­stan­tial amount” of prop­erty con­fis­cated from Jewish fam­i­lies.

Un­der the Terezin Dec­la­ra­tion, it was agreed no state should ben­e­fit from heir­less prop­erty and that funds should in­stead be al­lo­cated to needy Holo­caust sur­vivors.

There are around half a mil­lion Shoah sur­vivors still alive, with about half of those liv­ing in poverty, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Mean­while, the pro­ceeds from “what amounts to the largest theft in his­tory has not been ad­e­quately dealt with” the study con­cluded.

This in­cludes prop­erty cur­rently in the hands of the state and pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als or en­ti­ties, as well as re­li­gious and com­mu­nal build­ings such as syn­a­gogues and com­mu­nity cen­tres which have never been re­turned.

The 1,265-page study was pre­sented at the Un­fin­ished Jus­tice: Resti­tu­tion and Re­mem­brance con­fer­ence at the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in Brus­sels.

Poland and Bos­nia-Herze­gov­ina have failed to en­act any com­pre­hen­sive im­mov­able prop­erty leg­is­la­tion cov­er­ing items taken dur­ing the Holo­caust and Com­mu­nist eras.

In Poland, fewer than half of 5,550 Jewish com­mu­nal prop­erty claims filed un­der the 1997 resti­tu­tion law have been ad­ju­di­cated.

Other coun­tries, in­clud­ing Croa­tia, Lithua­nia, Macedonia, and Slove­nia, limit el­i­gi­ble claimants to those who are cur­rently cit­i­zens of their re­spec­tive coun­tries.

Own­er­ship over many for­merly Jewish re­li­gious and com­mu­nal prop­er­ties in Latvia re­mains in dis­pute and are not sub­ject to cur­rent leg­is­la­tion. Mean­while in Croa­tia, the resti­tu­tion law passed in the early 1990s cov­ered only Com­mu­nist era prop­erty con­fis­ca­tion.

Gideon Taylor, of the World Jewish Resti­tu­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion, said: “Progress has been made in re­cent years on re­turn­ing and com­pen­sat­ing for looted prop­erty but, as sur­vivors pass away, Europe must en­sure that all coun­tries live up to their in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments.”

Anezka Neko­varova, di­rec­tor of the Euro­pean Shoah Legacy In­sti­tute which com­mis­sioned the study, said: “This thor­ough and his­toric re­port lays out in de­tail what has been achieved and what still re­mains to be done.”

Com­mu­nity lead­ers and Holo­caust sur­vivors have called on the EU Com­mis­sion and all mem­ber states to each ap­point spe­cial en­voys for Holo­caus­tre­lated is­sues, in­clud­ing resti­tu­tion, to ac­cel­er­ate ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at se­cur­ing jus­tice for vic­tims.

Fol­low­ing the con­fer­ence, or­gan­is­ers will urge the EU to sup­port a fur­ther dec­la­ra­tion, agree­ing “to pro­vide tech­ni­cal ad­vice and sup­port to as­sist and mon­i­tor var­i­ous resti­tu­tion pro­cesses” in coun­tries.

MEPs will also be asked to do more.

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