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HOLOCAUST ERA ASSETS CONFERENCE Prague, June 26-30, 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "HOLOCAUST ERA ASSETS CONFERENCE Prague, June 26-30, 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 HOLOCAUST ERA ASSETS CONFERENCE Prague, June 26-30, 2009

2 HISTORIC REVIEW Before World War II 10 Million Jews were living in Europe. The Holocaust decimated Jewish communities from Finland in the North to Greece in the South. The largest concentration of Jews lived in Poland (3.3 million), substantial communities lived in Hungary (800,000) and Romania (600,000). Additional 5 million were scattered in around two dozen other countries in Europe. Six Million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust (Shoah). In some countries 90% of the Jewish community was decimated.

3 HISTORIC REVIEW Until 1938, thousands of Jewish communities were deeply rooted in Europe where they flourished and accumulated substantial private and communal wealth. During the Holocaust, 21,000 communal properties were confiscated in Eastern and Central Europe. Only 16% of which have been recovered or for which compensation was paid. Most of the Jewish-owned property which was confiscated during the Holocaust era has not been returned, nor has a fair compensation been paid to its rightful owners.

4 HISTORIC REVIEW Over sixty years since the end of the Holocaust and almost twenty years since the fall of the “Iron Curtain” the overwhelming majority of confiscated Jewish property is still in the hands of European governments and private citizens protected by national legislation. The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) was created, in 1993, to serve as a voice for the Jewish people – to establish or improve existing claims processes, and increase attention to the issue of restitution of immovable communal and private property.

5 WJRO – BACKGROUND Founded in 1993 by leading Jewish organizations with global reach, the WJRO is a non-profit organization registered in Israel. Serves as the legal and moral representative of world Jewry, victims and exterminated communities - who were devoid of any representative or protective government during the Holocaust - with regards to claims for recovery of Jewish property in Europe (excluding Germany & Austria).

6 WJRO – STRATEGIC GOALS To address European Jewry’s vast assets lost during the Nazi and Communist eras. To recover both private and communal property, looted art and the unpaid material claims belonging to hundreds of thousands of Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. To address the pressing issue of recuperating heirless private property.

7 WJRO – DEMONSTRATED NEED Today the number of living Holocaust survivors can be counted in the few hundred thousands. All are advanced in age, many are in need of home care, physical and mental assistance and responsibility for their wellbeing and welfare. They still live with the horrors of the past and the destruction of their families, homes and communities. Their voices, as well as the echo of the victims, should be heard through increased Holocaust education, remembrance and research so their legacy can continue. It is therefore incumbent on us to address these needs and meet these challenges.

8 WJRO MEMBER ORGANIZATIONS The Jewish Agency for Israel The World Zionist Organization The World Jewish Congress World Agudat Israel The Organization of Holocaust Survivors in Israel The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany B’nai B’rith International European Jewish Congress / European Council of Jewish Communities The American Federation of Jewish Holocaust Survivors

9 WJRO - MISSION Consulting and negotiating with national and local governments to conclude agreements and ensure legislation concerning the restitution of property to the Jewish people. Conducting research on Jewish property in national and local archives and to establish a central data bank in which information on Jewish communal property will be recorded and assembled.

10 Signing cooperation agreements with local Jewish communities for the purpose of: Administering and utilizing restored properties and using the income received from it to strengthen local communities and provide aid for Jewish residents in need. Improving the economic circumstances of former residents of the country in question, regardless of where they live today. Allocating funds for the preservation of Jewish cultural and educational projects in that country. To date, such funds have been establishes in Poland, Romania and Hungary WJRO - MISSION

11 IN POLAND: The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage was founded in 2001 by the Polish Jewish community, with WJRO assistance. By May 2002 over 5,700 claims had been filed – 3,500 by the Foundation and the remainder by local Jewish communities. As of 2007, of the total 5,544 communal property claims filed, only 1,327 cases (24%) were resolved. Prior to the war, there were 4,833 Jewish communal properties in Poland and 1,249 cemeteries. WJRO and LOCAL COMMUNITIES PARTNERSHIP FOUNDATIONS

12 IN ROMANIA: In 2005 the Romanian Government authorized the establishment of a Property Fund – ‘CARITATEA Foundation’ - out of which compensation would be paid, where confiscated properties could not be returned. In spite of legislation which appears beneficial, implementation of the restitution process in Romania has been seriously flawed.

13 WJRO and LOCAL COMMUNITIES PARTNERSHIP FOUNDATIONS IN HUNGARY: In November 2007, the Hungarian government approved a special joint committee – consisting of government officials, local and international Jewish representatives – to address remaining property restitution issues, including heirless Jewish property, looted art, insurance, bank accounts, etc. Following negotiations between the Hungarian government and the WJRO regarding the joint committee, $21 million was allocated as down-payment for heirless property.

14 WJRO – GOING FORWRAD Engage in intensive consultations and negotiations with all relevant European countries to encourage communal and private property legislation. Foster international support of WJRO’s mission and activities. Impress on nations which have not passed legislation (e.g Poland - for private property, and Lithuania - for communal property). to enhance the necessary processes without further delay. Establish funds with local Jewish communities to administer the recovered assets. Enlist support and assist The European Shoah Legacy Institute in Terezin.

15 Ambassador David Peleg Director General WJRO, World Jewish Restitution Organization


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