BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 14 – Lawmakers from 18 nations today urged European Parliament President Martin Schulz to increase the body’s attention to the restitution of Holocaust-era property, noting the need for resolution seven decades after the end of World War II.
Thirty-six MEPs signed the letter supporting Holocaust survivors, stressing that European parliamentarians “bear a particular moral responsibility to promote the restitution of property unjustly taken during the Holocaust and its aftermath, as well as to advocate for the social welfare of aging survivors and the enduring remembrance of the Holocaust.”
The newly formed coalition of members of the European Parliament, the legislative arm of the European Union, is known as the European Alliance for Holocaust Survivors.
“We appreciate the wide-ranging European support for an increased focus on unresolved Holocaust-era issues,” said Gideon Taylor, World Jewish Restitution Organization chair of operations. “We look forward to seeing an ongoing leadership role and meaningful outcomes by the MEPs comprising the European Alliance for Holocaust Survivors.”
The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) launched the initiative. The WJRO serves as the legal and moral representative of world Jewry in pursuing claims for the recovery of Jewish properties seized during the Holocaust in all countries, except Germany and Austria.
“My colleagues and I are proud to lead this coalition to ensure that the European Parliament focuses on resolving issues impacting Holocaust victims with no further delay,” said Gunnar Hökmark (EPP, Sweden), chair of the European Alliance for Holocaust Survivors. “We look forward to the European Parliament giving greater attention to this issue.”
The MEPs that have signed the letter to President Schulz represent a wide range of political groups, including Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), European People’s Party (EPP), Greens, and Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).
They also come from 18 EU member-states, including Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
In addition, the MEP coalition called upon President Schulz to designate a vice president to address specific concerns that Holocaust survivors face.
“The broad support for this initiative, from across the political spectrum and from member- states across the continent, confirms the consensus that Europe can wait no longer to focus on Holocaust-era property restitution,” said Charles Goerens (ALDE, Luxembourg), co-chair of the European Alliance for Holocaust Survivors. “Designating an individual to focus on these issues is an appropriate step for the European Parliament to take.”
During the Holocaust, the looting of specifically Jewish property – perhaps the largest theft in human history – was central to Nazi war efforts. Across Europe, a large amount of once Jewish-owned properties confiscated by the Nazis and sometimes nationalized by Communist governments still has not been returned. Nor has compensation been provided to the rightful owners or their heirs.
Moreover, a number of nations that endorsed the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues have not fully addressed the restitution of Jewish communal, private and/or heirless property.
“We must commit, both as individual member-states and as a collective forum of nations, to meeting our responsibilities to the victims of the Holocaust,” said Monika Flasikova Benova (S&D, Slovakia), co-chair of the European Alliance for Holocaust Survivors. “As democratic nations, it is essential that we seek justice for those who have suffered and lost so much.”
The Terezin Declaration, endorsed by 47 nations, including many EU members, affirms that “the protection of property rights is an essential component of a democratic society and the rule of law” and recognizes “the importance of restituting or compensating Holocaust-related confiscations made during the Holocaust era between 1933-45.”
The Terezin Declaration also states that “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.”
A copy of the letter to President Schulz and the list of signatories can be found here.
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