Washington, D.C., July 1, 2015 – Forty-six members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry today urging the administration to continue to advocate for Holocaust-era property restitution in Europe and expressing the commitment by Congress to press for restitution on behalf of Holocaust victims and their families and heirs.
The bipartisan effort, led by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), underscores that too many nations in Europe have not fully addressed the restitution of Jewish communal, private and heirless property stolen by the Nazi regime, despite these nations’ endorsement of the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues in 2009. A direct link to the letter is here.
The letter was initiated by the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), which works toward the restitution of private property and Jewish communal property seized during the Holocaust across Eastern Europe.
“Poland, home to the largest pre-Holocaust Jewish community, has no law on private property,” the letter states. “Other countries, including Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Serbia, have yet to fully meet their responsibilities to provide restitution.”
Gideon Taylor, WJRO chair of operations, said, “We welcome the bipartisan support of so many congressional leaders who understand the urgency of seeking restitution while survivors are still alive. Their participation, along with the continued leadership of the U.S. administration, will only enhance America’s critical role in this effort.”
The resolution of property restitution claims can benefit many Holocaust survivors who live in poverty, the congressional letter to Secretary Kerry notes. “Many Holocaust survivors … live in poverty while knowing the property that was stolen from them and their family remains in the hands of governments and private owners who have no rightful claim,” it states.
“The time is now for these governments to pass legislation that ensures a meaningful and expeditious opportunity for property claims to be filed and considered fairly and the property returned or compensated in a timely manner,” the letter also states.
The U.S. administration’s efforts during the past 15 years have been spearheaded by the exemplary work of the Office of Holocaust Issues, currently led by Special Envoy Nicholas Dean. The United States’ ongoing engagement with its European allies has ensured that WWII-era property restitution remains a top foreign relations priority.
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