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WJRO Welcomes Congressional Action on Holocaust Restitution

The “JUST Act” Requires State Department to Report on Europe’s Progress

Washington, D.C., February 28, 2017 – The World Jewish Restitution Organization welcomed the introduction of bicameral, bipartisan legislation in the United States Congress requiring the State Department to report on the progress European countries are making on Holocaust-era property restitution.

The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act, S. 447 and H.R. 1226, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and in the House of Representatives by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). The legislation calls for the State Department to monitor and annually report whether countries that endorsed the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues are meeting their commitment to adopt national laws and policies to help Holocaust survivors identify and reclaim their properties.

WJRO worked closely with the lead House and Senate offices to reintroduce this legislation, which was first introduced in the last Congress in 2016.

“Shining a sustained light on this urgent issue will encourage countries to live up to their commitment under the Terezin Declaration to address the unjust theft and confiscation of Holocaust-era properties,” said Gideon Taylor, chair of operations for WJRO.

“We welcome this bipartisan legislation as it helps bring us a step closer to providing a measure of justice and compassion to Holocaust survivors and their heirs,” said Abraham Biderman, co-chairman of WJRO’s Executive Committee.

In 2009, 47 countries approved the Terezin Declaration that recognizes “the importance of restituting or compensating Holocaust-related confiscations made during the Holocaust era between 1933-45.” It also states “the importance of recovering communal and religious immovable property in reviving and enhancing Jewish life, ensuring its future, assisting the welfare needs of Holocaust (Shoah) survivors, and fostering the preservation of Jewish cultural heritage.”

Should the JUST Act become law, the U.S. State Department would be required to report annually on the status of restitution efforts by adding this reporting to either the Annual Country Report on Human Rights, the International Religious Freedom Report, or another appropriate report as determined by the Secretary of State.

The other original co-sponsors of this legislation in the Senate include Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. John Thune (D-S.D.), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).

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