The Israeli organization for the restitution of Holocaust victims' assets has begun returning NIS 1.5 million to a group of 15 heirs whose properties and assets were previously held by the state, the organization announced Sunday. The heirs, who include residents of the United States, South Africa and Israel, are receiving refunds ranging from NIS 700 to NIS 800,000 each, said Avraham Roet, the head of the restitution group. The Knesset established the organization in 2006 in an effort to uncover Holocaust victims' assets and return them to their rightful heirs. Last year, the group published the first list of such assets found in Israel. Property and assets valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars have been held by various state institutions for dozens of years. Those that are not claimed will be used to help elderly Holocaust survivors in need. About 250,000 Holocaust survivors currently live in the country. Nearly one-third of them live in poverty, welfare reports have found, prompting a recent landmark accord for additional government assistance. However, red tape has again held up the transfer of funds, which was supposed to begin at the start of the year but is now slated for completion by March 1.