Commemorative candles to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Social Equality Ministry is joining forces with the World Jewish Restitution Organization in what may be a last-ditch effort at returning Jewish property seized in the Holocaust.
In many cases, such property was initially looted by the Nazis and subsequently sequestered by the Communists. Now, more liberal governments are reluctant to deal with the restitution issue, not only because it is complicated in terms of people who are currently in possession of Jewish assets, but because governments don’t want to pay out millions of dollars in cases where actual property cannot be returned to rightful owners.
A joint restitution program, to be carried out by the ministry in conjunction with WJRO, will be launched on Thursday at the President’s Residence, with the participation of President Reuven Rivlin, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel and representatives of the WJRO.
The WJRO is the roof body for all Jewish organizations working in the sphere of restitution.
The intention is to come up with a program that will be acceptable to all such bodies and to join forces with the common aim of introducing legislation and regulatory measures that will guarantee benefits to Holocaust survivors and to the heirs of survivors who have died and those of victims of the Holocaust murdered by the Nazis and their cohorts.
The joint program will focus on five countries in which there is sizable Jewish property the restitution for which has not yet been settled. The countries in question are Poland, Romania, Hungary, Croatia and Lithuania.
Among the participants in the cooperative launch will be Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem, Social Equality Ministry director-general Avi Cohen, former government minister Rafi Eitan, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who is also the co-chairman of the WJRO, as well as representatives of countries that have been assisting the WJRO in its efforts – primarily the United States, represented by acting ambassador Leslie Meredith Tsou, German Ambassador Dr. Clemens von Goetze, deputy head of mission at the British Embassy Tony Kay, first secretary at the French Embassy Jean-Marie Druette, special French envoy for restitution François Croquette, and head of the delegation of the European Union Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen.
According to Gamliel, “the Jewish people and the Jewish state have a moral obligation to do everything possible to restore to Holocaust survivors all property that was seized from them.”