Survivors and their families share stories about their lives before the Holocaust to show how their homes, land, business, or personal possessions are important and powerful links to their pasts
(New York, NY) April 8, 2019: In preparation for Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah), the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) is launching a month-long social media campaign – #MyPropertyStory – to focus on survivors’ lives before the Holocaust and show how their homes, land, businesses, or personal possessions are important and powerful links to their past.
The campaign is launching in the beginning of April and continuing throughout the month until Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah), on Thursday, May 2. During this time, WJRO is asking Holocaust survivors, their children, grandchildren, extended families, and others to share and post their unique stories on social media about life before the Holocaust to shine a light on the injustice suffered by millions as a result of what was wrongfully taken from them during the Shoah and its aftermath. The campaign will culminate on Yom HaShoah with a gallery of photos, videos, and postings on the WJRO website wjro.org.il/mypropertystory.
WJRO is asking participants to post their stories through videos, photos, statements, or drawings – via Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram and include – #MyPropertyStory and tag @WJRORestitution.
During the Holocaust, the Nazis and their allies systematically robbed millions of Jews of every possession from their homes and businesses as well as property belonging to the Jewish community. Each item represented a cherished memory, a loved one, a childhood cut short, a lifetime of labor – generations of history – people’s lives that were taken. The #MyPropertyStory social media campaign focuses on survivors and their descendants and their connection to their family history before and after the Shoah.
“#MyPropertyStory is a unique social media campaign in which Holocaust survivors and their families can share their cherished memories of lives that were forever changed,” said Gideon Taylor, Chair of Operations, WJRO. “Behind every property there is a story. It is a link, a connection, a bond to the history of Jewish families and communities torn apart by the Holocaust.”
WJRO has created customized videos (in Hebrew and English) with interviews of Holocaust survivors who share their own journey of what has connected them to their family history. These videos can be used by anyone for reposting through this link.
The #MyPropertyStory interviews feature:
- Holocaust survivor Greta Mares, who speaks about her happy childhood in Czechoslovakia, her close call with almost being murdered in Auschwitz, and then upon her return home, the memory of seeing the stolen rings of her dead sister on another woman’s hand in a café. “I looked across the room and she was wearing my sister’s two rings,” said Greta.
- In another video, Holocaust survivor Lea Evron recounts her young life in Poland. She describes her father’s successful business, the family’s exile, and her lifelong battle for her family’s property. Lea says: “Since 1988, when Poland became a democratic country, I have been trying to recover my father’s factory and building. Although I have received numerous promises from Polish Presidents, until today these properties have not been returned. I will not give up.”
- The video of Polish-born Holocaust survivor Yoram Sztykgold highlights his journey from his current home in Israel back to his native Warsaw to find his family’s lost property. He recounts how when Germany invaded Poland, his life changed almost immediately. He is not necessarily looking for compensation for himself. He says that at 82, he is too old to benefit. “My children suffered through me,” said Yoram. “Compensation is a binding chain that ties the story together.”
Almost 75 years after the Holocaust, there are an estimated 400,000 Holocaust survivors still alive around the world. However, most have not received any restitution or compensation or acknowledgment for the wrongful taking of their every possession. As survivors continue to age, the #MyPropertyStory social media campaign efforts will raise awareness to help ensure that they see a measure of justice in their lifetime and help them secure what is rightfully theirs.
For more information about the #MyPropertyStory campaign, please visit: wjro.org.il/mypropertystory. The website includes, links to WJRO’s social media platforms, links to videos and photos for reposting, and sample tweets and postings.
Background Information about Recent Holocaust-era Property Restitution Activity
- In May 2018, President Trump signed a law, the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act. The JUST Act requires the State Department to investigate and submit a report to Congress on the extent to which endorsees of the 2009Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues are meeting their pledges to adopt national laws and policies to help Holocaust survivors identify and reclaim their properties. The report is due in December 2019.
- In his first official visit to Poland in February, in a joint press conference, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the issue of Holocaust-era property restitution with the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz.
Secretary of State Pompeo said: “We also appreciate the importance of resolving outstanding issues of the past, and I urge my Polish colleagues to move forward with comprehensive private property restitution legislation for those who lost property during the Holocaust era.” The full transcript is available here.
- In January, the European Parliament passed a resolution to identify and recover works of arts and cultural goods such as books, manuscripts, and ritual items looted during wars. The resolution notes estimates that millions of cultural goods were stolen during World War II, including 650,00 pieces of art. An estimated 110,00 works remain missing.
In the resolution, the European Parliament stressed the importance of provenance research, describing it as an “urgent need” and calls on the European Commission to “protect, support, and encourage cross-border restitution claims.”
- In May 2017, WJRO and the Government of Israel signed an agreement to enhance cooperation and ongoing coordination on restitution efforts. The agreement was signed by Israeli President Rivlin, who spoke about his commitment to progress on restitution issues which were also expressed in a speech he delivered when leading the 30th annual March of the Living from the gates of Auschwitz to Auschwitz-Birkenau in April 2018: “Too many citizens, in Eastern Europe and in Western Europe, stole Jewish property, took control of Jewish homes, handed over their Jewish neighbors, murdered them and turned their backs on those who, just a moment before, had been a part of them. And when the survivors of the Holocaust returned after the war, they were sometimes met with hostility, violence, pogroms and murder.”