Court rejects petition on mishandling of Holocaust assets

Judges did not accept claim that group broke the law by allocating funds to organizations not solely dedicated to helping survivors.

The High Court of Justice on Thursday rejected a petition accusing the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets of breaking the law by allocating funds to organizations that were not solely dedicated to the welfare of Holocaust survivors. The petition was filed in 2008 by The Fund on Behalf of Holocaust Victims in Israel, which was established in 1991 by the umbrella organization of survivors groups. The petitioners accused the company, in 2008, of taking NIS 25 million in funds it had collected from the assets of Holocaust victims whose heirs could not be found, and allocating this money to nine organizations, most of which did not help only survivors. The recipient groups included a non-profit organization for dental care, the Latet philanthropic organization, Eshel, which provides elderly care, Law in the Service of the Elderly, and Meir Panim. The petitioners, represented by attorney Daphna Holtz-Lechner, said that the Holocaust Victims Assets Law (Restitution to Heirs and Endowment for Purposes of Assistance and Commemoration) 2006, on whose basis the company was established, stated that the group must either return the assets it retrieves to the rightful heirs or, in case it can find no heirs, distribute the funds to victims or organizations that serve the victims. However, a panel of three justices - including Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel and Yoram Danziger - ruled that organizations that provided assistance to Holocaust survivors were eligible for the funding even if they served others as well. "Article 4(a)(4) of the law does not state that the company is authorized to support only those institutions and bodies whose sole aim is to assist Holocaust survivors, and therefore it may support other organizations whose declared and principle aims are not necessarily to help Holocaust survivors," wrote Danziger. Beyond the actual wording of the law, he continued, its aim, as made clear in the explanation of the law, "is to support the Holocaust survivors and help them in every possible way." Since the organizations which received funding in 2008 do indeed help survivors, they meet the criteria of the law. In essence, the petition has become irrelevant since it was filed because the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets announced it would distribute money in 2009 directly to the survivors themselves. The spokesman for The Fund on Behalf of Holocaust Victims in Israel could not be reached for comment by press time.