Holocaust survivors 58.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Anticipating a new life in the Land of Israel, Shlomo Gonen’s uncle deposited £1,000 in an Israeli bank account, a decade before he was murdered in the Holocaust.
When Gonen’s family in Ramat Gan sought to claim the funds 20 years later, the bank offered less than a shekel.
But this year, the Company for Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets – a private, government-mandated organization that returns Israel-based assets to victim heirs – set out to “right a historical wrong,” as its mission statement says. Satisfied with the appropriate documentation, the company secured for Gonen today’s equivalent of his uncle’s account: NIS 360,000.
At a press conference for international media on Wednesday, the company said Gonen was one of 1,300 people who have successfully petitioned for the restitution of real estate and money.
Since the company’s establishment in 2006 by the Knesset, it has restored more than NIS 34 million to the rightful owners.
The company has listed on its Web site (www.hashava.org.il/eng/) 60,000 assets – worth a total of nearly NIS 1 billion – along with the name and nationality of the original owner, enabling victims’ heirs to search the site and petition for any assets they believe to be theirs.
While the program has seen great success among heirs in Israel, organizers are looking to reach out worldwide. Wednesday’s conference was part of an advertising campaign targeting English-speaking nations and particularly North America.
“This company was established in order to return the heirs whatever is rightfully theirs,” Zvi Kanor, the director of the company, told The Jerusalem Post
. “We have to do whatever we can in order to find them.”
Kanor and other board members, as well as Gonen and two other beneficiaries– success stories – spoke on Wednesday to journalists from an array of international Jewish publications.
Kanor said the company has received more than 10,000 applications from people around the world, and that it has already outperformed international organizations with similar goals.
“I am very proud of the ability and the capability of the company to do
a great job,” he said. “Don’t forget we are talking about 65 years
after the war.”
The company has begun spending part of the unclaimed financial assets
in its holdings to support Holocaust survivors. This past year, the
company set aside NIS 127m. for survivor welfare and Holocaust memorial
and education projects in Israel.
In dealing with enormous amounts of Holocaust victims’ assets, the
company reaffirmed at Wednesday’s press conference its commitment to
transparency, a pledge laid out in law when the company was established
by the Knesset.
“I told everyone, we don’t hide anything,” Kanor said. “This is a public company.”