In an unprecedented move in Israel, the Company for the Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets will, on Wednesday, file a NIS 305 million lawsuit against Bank Leumi over assets that belong to thousands Holocaust victims and their heirs, the group said Tuesday.
The legal action against Israel's second largest bank follows years of fruitless negotiations to reclaim the funds that the restitution group said were deposited by Holocaust victims in thousands of bank accounts before World War II.
The NIS 305 million being claimed in the lawsuit, which will be filed in the Jerusalem District Court, was deposited by Holocaust victims in more than 3,500 Bank Leumi accounts, group spokeswoman Meital Noy said.
"The behavior of Bank Leumi is revolting and is a blatant violation of the law," said Menachem Ariav, chairman of the Restitution Organization. "We expect the bank's directorate to work to return the the victims' property and to help us correct a 65-year-old historic injustice."
The Holocaust victims had invested in the Jewish Colonial Trust, which was founded at the end of the 19th century by the Zionist movement to advance financial development in the Land of Israel.
The trust, which was in charge of banking operations and of financial projects in Palestine, founded the bank that became Bank Leumi following Israel's independence. Bank Leumi has rejected the imminent lawsuit as "baseless," and said that the legal action was being taken solely to cover up the organization's blunders and waste of public funds, including significant errors in identification of accounts, involving tens of millions of shekels.