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MEPs from across Europe pledge renewed support for Holocaust survivors over restitution

Calls for Special Envoys for Post-Holocaust Related Issues in 47 states

(Monday, 26 June 2017)  European Parliament members from more than 20 EU member states and five European political groups have backed a pledge to increase support for Holocaust survivors and their families seeking the return of stolen and looted WW2 property.

Seventy-one MEPs, representing a wide range of groups from across the political spectrum, issued a joint declaration promising to work together on Holocaust-era restitution, and address the growing welfare needs of survivors, many of whom live in poverty.

The statement calls on the European Commission and EU member states to appoint Special Envoys for Holocaust Related Issues, and urges the EU to provide technical advice and support to assist and monitor restitution processes across Europe to meet the obligations of the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust-Era Assets.

Welcoming the European support, Gideon Taylor, Chair of Operations at the World Jewish Restitution Organization, said he hoped that the focus placed on restitution by the European Parliament would spur nations to act.

“Holocaust-era property restitution requires urgent action to help put an end to the injustice done to survivors, and to support those living in poverty and hardship,” he said. “The European Parliament’s declaration puts the EU at the forefront in calling for justice for survivors and their families.”

The declaration pledges MEPs ‘enduring commitment to the provision of adequate and immediate social welfare support for Holocaust survivors, the demarcation, protection and preservation of Jewish cemeteries, mass graves and other burial sites, the preservation of Jewish heritage sites, and the promotion of Holocaust education, research and remembrance.’

“With this declaration, members of the European Parliament affirm the moral responsibility of the European Union member states to advance Holocaust-era property restitution,” said Gunnar Hokmark MEP, chair of the European Alliance for Holocaust Survivors.

“It also sends a strong political message that with the advancing age of Holocaust survivors, resolving property restitution is an urgent issue, and ensures that bringing some justice to the victims of the mass theft of the 1930s and 1940s remains a high priority for the European Union.”

Ambassador Joël Lion, Special Envoy of the Israeli Foreign Ministry for Holocaust Era Assets Restitution: “It has been more than seventy years since the Holocaust, but only a small fraction of private and communal immovable and movable property that was illegitimately seized from Jewish victims has been returned. At the same time, many Holocaust survivors live in poverty and without adequate social care, and their social welfare needs are expanding rapidly as they age.

“Restitution is a human rights issue, not purely a Jewish concern, and so it is the responsibility of all member states to address the legacy of the Holocaust and ensure that every country has a comprehensive and efficient system for restoring property to their rightful owners.”

During a conference Unfinished Justice: Restitution and Remembrance at the European Parliament in May, where the declaration was opened for signatures, the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani said that the return of Holocaust-era property was a ‘fundamental element to restore justice.’

Signatories of the declaration include those representing the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), European People’s Party (EPP), Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA), and Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).  Countries represented by the MEPs are Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom.

Notes to Editors:

A full copy of the Declaration signed by MEPs can be found here.

The drafting of the declaration was supported by the European Alliance for Holocaust Survivors, a coalition of members of the European Parliament committed to issues impacting Holocaust survivors, the World Jewish Restitution Organisation, and the European Shoah Legacy Institute, together with the European Jewish Congress and B’nai B’rith International. Also supporting the declaration are the Permanent Missions of the States of Israel, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom to the European Unions and their respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

About WJRO:

Following the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the leading world Jewish organizations established the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) to address the restitution of Jewish property and to remind the world that the time has come to redress the enormous material wrongs caused to European Jewry during the Holocaust.

WJRO is the legal and moral representative of world Jewry in pursuing claims for the recovery of Jewish properties in Europe

About the Terezin Declaration:

Approved by 47 countries at the conclusion of the 2009 Holocaust Era Assets Conference in Prague, the declaration announced a programme of activities geared towards ensuring assistance, redress and remembrance for victims of Nazi persecution. Further details can be found at: http://wjro.org.il/our-work/international-declarations-resolutions/terezin-declaration/

Media contacts:

For further information and interviews with Gideon Taylor, at the WJRO, please contact Jane Kerr on +44 (0) 7920 542832 or Fiona Cumberland on +44 (0) 7880 473801.

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