WJRO Lithuania Operations
Lithuania has implemented restitution and compensation programs for confiscated private property, as well as for certain confiscated communal property. About 220,000 Jews lived in prewar Lithuania. During World War II, the Nazis and their local collaborators annihilated more that 90% of the Jewish community.
The Law on the Procedure for the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Religious Associations to Existing Real Property (1995) provided a one-year period for religious groups to claim religious property mostly houses of worship confiscated after July 1940.
Pursuant to the law, the government returned a few buildings – including 3 in Vilnius and 5in Kaunas to the small religious Jewish community.
To address the limitations of the 1995 law – which mostly included worship houses and related property – Lithuania’s parliament passed The Law on Good Will Compensation for the Real Estate of Jewish Religious Communities in June 2011. The 2011 legislation authorized the payment of 128 million litas (approximately $53 million) over 10 years beginning in 2013. This amount was determined based on what the government claimed was 30% of the official values of 152 properties it determined to be eligible for restitution. The law also provided 3 million litas ($1.25 million) as one time payments to individuals in 2012. The Good Will Foundation, a joint foundation of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and WJRO, was designated by the government to receive and allocate the compensation.
The Lithuanian claims process for the restitution of property seized under the laws of the USSR or otherwise unlawfully nationalized, established under the Law On Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to Existing Real Property (enacted in 1997 and amended in 2002), provided that former property owners, and certain heirs, were eligible to recover their confiscated property, so long as claimants were Lithuanian resident citizens. Compensation when the property could not be returned in rem would be in shares in State-owned companies. The restitution process raised many concerns, including a lack of sufficient substitute properties. Most Lithuanian survivors and their heirs living abroad were not able to recover their properties.
Foundation for the Lithuanian Jewish Heritage and the Good Will Foundation
For more information about the Foundation for the Lithuanian Jewish Heritage and the Good Will Foundation, click here.