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State Department JUST Act report shows that many European countries have not upheld their commitments on Holocaust era property restitution

US Secretary of State: “I will continue to prioritize this effort”

(New York, NY) July 29, 2020:  The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) welcomes the State Department’s groundbreaking JUST Act report that shows that many European countries have not met their commitments to Holocaust survivors and Jewish communities to provide restitution or compensation for property that was wrongfully taken from them during the Second World War. The issuance today of the JUST Act report is the US government’s first-ever comprehensive review of the state of restitution of Holocaust era assets.

“As the JUST Act report makes clear, Holocaust survivors and Jewish communities continue to wait for justice for property that was wrongfully taken from them,” said Gideon Taylor, Chair of Operations, World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO). “Even in these hard times, countries should live up to their pledges to address the material wrongs of the Holocaust while the remaining survivors are still alive.”

“Amid the coronavirus pandemic, all must be done to care for vulnerable Holocaust survivors, many of whom live on limited incomes and are in poor health,” continued Taylor.  “We are proud of the work that our member organizations are doing on the ground every day to assist Holocaust survivors and others during this crisis.”

“The report is a powerful statement of support by the US government to Holocaust survivors in their quest for justice.  We want to thank President Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo, and both Houses of Congress, led by the co-sponsors of the law, Senators Baldwin and Rubio, former Rep. Joseph Crowley and Rep. Chris Smith, for coming together and supporting this issue,” Taylor added.

In response to the JUST Act report, Lea Evron, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor from Poland who now lives in New York City, described the significance of the findings of the report.  “My family owned a factory and an apartment building that was taken away from us by the Nazis and their collaborators.  The property owned by my family is the only connection I have to my childhood and my family’s past.  Now that the report shows that Poland has not met its promise to me and other Holocaust survivors, I hope that Poland finally will do the right thing.”

In the forward to the report, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo says the following:

“Much time has passed, and the need for action is urgent. As we mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust, the legacy of the Nazis’ mass looting remains in too many places and largely unaddressed. Given the advanced age of Holocaust survivors, many of whom live in poverty, the findings of this report serve as a reminder that countries must act with a greater sense of urgency to provide restitution or compensation for the property wrongfully seized from victims of the Holocaust and other victims of Nazi persecution. All victims of the Nazi regime should be able to live out their remaining days in dignity.”

“When President Trump signed a landmark executive order on combatting anti-Semitism in December 2019, he also stressed the importance of ‘strengthening restitution efforts,’ which lie at the core of the Terezin Declaration. I am proud of the State Department’s ongoing efforts to encourage countries to meet the goals and commitments they undertook when they endorsed the Terezin Declaration and to provide a belated measure of justice to Holocaust survivors and their families and to Jewish communities destroyed by the Holocaust. As Secretary of State, I will continue to prioritize this effort.”

This first-ever report was issued to Congress by the State Department as required by the JUST Act, passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Trump in May 2018.  The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report assesses and describes the steps taken by the countries that endorsed the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues in meeting their commitment to adopt national laws and policies to help Holocaust survivors and Jewish communities identify and reclaim their properties.

A link to the JUST Act Report can be found here.

A link to key findings in the report can be found here.

Important information from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) about support for Holocaust survivors during the coronavirus pandemic is available here.


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