Slovenia's Jewish community is seeking US $17.9 million from the government as restitution for property its members lost during and after World War II, its top official said Tuesday.
"It would be a symbolic compensation for the property seized" during the war, Andrej Kozar Beck, the head of the Jewish community in Slovenia, said.
Kozar Beck said the tiny community - now numbering about 150 people - first requested that the government pay restitution five years ago, "but we're still where we started. Nothing happened."
"I know this could not be solved overnight, but patience has limits and some think we should file a lawsuit" against the state, Kozar Beck told The Associated Press.
About 1,500-3,000 Jews lived in Slovenia before World War II. During the wartime occupation of Slovenia by Germany and Italy, most of the Jews perished, killed in the country or after deportation to concentration camps abroad.
Kozar Beck said the heirs of those killed should be paid for damages. He said the community is not demanding that the property - largely buildings, apartments and houses - be given back.
However, he said, a 1949 document estimated the value of Jewish property seized during the war at the time at US $250,000, "and injustices done to Jews have been in the meantime compensated across Europe by countries much poorer than Slovenia."
Slovene justice ministry Lovro Sturm acknowledged that Slovenia "will have to deal with the request as soon as possible."
But he insisted that the government has to collect detailed documents on the property seized during the war before making the payment.
"The final amount of compensation ... will be a matter of agreement between the state and the Jewish community," Sturm said.
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