The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) has launched a social media campaign to encourage Holocaust survivors to tell their stories of what they endured under the Nazi regime, and about the property that was stolen from them during the course of the 1930s and the Second World War.
The WJRO asked Holocaust survivors, their children, grandchildren, extended families and others to share and post their stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube about life before the Holocaust and to “shine a light on the injustice suffered by millions as a result of what was wrongfully taken from them during the Shoah and its aftermath.”
Using the #MyPropertyStory hashtag and tagging @WJRORestitution, the WJRO and individuals who have heard about the campaign have posted dozens of such stories on the various social media platforms.
One account highlighted by WJRO is that of Holocaust survivor Lea Evron, who recounts her young life in Poland in a video she made with the organization, in which she described her father’s successful business, the family’s exile from Poland and her lifelong battle for the return of the family’s property.
Apart from Evron and her mother, the entire family was murdered in the Holocaust and she said that everything the family had owned was taken away.
She recounts her return to Poland and a woman who told them bitterly that “Hitler promised them to kill all the Jews and here they are, coming [back] again.”
Evron said, “Since 1988, when Poland became a democratic country, I have been trying to recover my father’s factory and building.”
“Although I have received numerous promises from Polish Presidents, until today these properties have not been returned. I will never give up.”
Another account posted by David Kotek – the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, who heard about the WJRO campaign – described how his grandfather and his brothers who perished in the Holocaust had owned an apartment building in the Polish city of Sosnowiec, the address for which he gave as 12 Tsasne Street.
Kotek wrote that the Sosnowiec municipality had nationalized the property, despite a court ruling that his grandfather had been the true owner.
In a case highlighted by the WJRO, Shosh Greenberg, the 71-year-old daughter of a Holocaust survivor from Lodz, Poland, has been fighting for restitution of family property in the city.
The family had 7,000 sq.m. of commercial space in the city which was nationalized by the Municipality of Lodz after the war. In a lengthy legal process that lasted seven years and cost nearly NIS 200,000, a court ruled in 2018 that Greenberg was the legal heir.
According to Greenberg, the Land Registry Office in Lodz refused to register her as the legal owner, claiming that the last date in the law was to register as owner in 2008 and that due to nationalization, a warning notice was registered in the Land Registry, and that Greenberg can therefore not be registered as an owner.
“My father swore me not to give up and fight to return the family’s property. I testified before the court in Lodz, I felt that I was speaking from my father’s throat and representing all the victims,” she said.
Yoram Sztykgold, who also made a video with WJRO, was three years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939.
He described his family who lived in Warsaw, Poland, as having been “very wealthy” before the Holocaust and had owned six or seven properties in the city.
Sztykgold and his family were forced into the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, but they managed to smuggle Yoram out. When he returned to the city, he saw that most of the city, including his family’s property, had been destroyed.
“What do I want from Poland? The Germans destroyed, and what remained the Poles nationalized. That which they nationalized, I want them to return,” said Sztykgold.
“My children, through me, suffered, they deserve this. Me? I am already 82, so peace be upon Israel.”
According to WJRO, there are still some 400,000 Holocaust survivors alive around the world, but most have not received any restitution, compensation or acknowledgment for the dispossession of their property.
The organization said that the #MyPropertyStory social media campaign is designed to raise awareness amongst survivors and their families “to ensure that they see a measure of justice in their lifetime and help them secure what is rightfully theirs.”
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