Restitution group to distribute NIS 100m. to survivors
The group, which has been criticized for protracted bureaucratic procedures, distributed a similar sum last year.
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
For the second year in a row, the Israeli Company for the Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets is distributing NIS 100 million to thousands of needy survivors, the group announced on Sunday.
The organization, which was established by the Knesset three years ago to identify and return the assets of Holocaust victims to their rightful owners, will be depositing this week one-time payments of NIS 6,000 in the bank accounts of 12,000 impoverished survivors living in Israel, for a total of NIS 72m.
The remaining NIS 28m. will be distributed to Holocaust victims who are not on the group's original list but subsequently appeal to get the grant, or to groups and organizations that aid needy survivors, company spokeswoman Meital Noy said.
"We will continue working to provide essential support to needy Holocaust survivors in tandem with our role in locating and returning property of Holocaust victims to their rightful heirs, fixing a historic injustice that has lasted for dozens of years," said Menachem Ariav, the chairman of the organization.
The restitution group, which has been criticized for protracted bureaucratic procedures, distributed a similar sum last year, also dividing it among needy survivors, who received three-quarters of the sum, and the organizations that help them.
Last year, the allocation of the funds came after a petition to the High Court of Justice by survivors demanding the company use some of its assets to immediately help survivors instead of waiting to find heirs to the properties.
The company has about NIS 700m. in assets, but about two-thirds consists of property belonging to Holocaust victims previously held by the state that the organization cannot legally sell for up to seven years, to give heirs a chance to claim it.
Two years ago, the company published the first list of assets located in Israel of Holocaust victims.
Assets belonging to Holocaust victims valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars have been held by state institutions in Israel for dozens of years, and have only recently begun to be transferred to their rightful owners.
To date, the company has transferred NIS 20m. to 500 heirs of Holocaust victims whose assets were previously held by the state, the group said on Sunday.
By law, assets that are not claimed will be used to help Holocaust survivors in need.
About 250,000 Holocaust survivors live in the country, nearly a third in poverty.
Last month, the company filed a NIS 300m. lawsuit against Bank Leumi over assets it says belong to thousands of Holocaust victims and their heirs.
The suit 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 bank says the legal action is baseless.
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