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Jewish Journal

On restitution, a rundown of where they stand in Eastern Europe

by Dinah Spritzer, JTA

December 3, 2012 | 2:16 pm

Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe

The following is a rundown of some Eastern European countries and where they stand on restitution:

Poland: Has not enacted any form of private restitution or compensation for an estimated $30.5 billion worth of property confiscated by the Nazis, then the communists. The Jewish share of claims on the properties is estimated at 20 percent to 27 percent. Poland has a burdensome process for restitution of Jewish communal property. As of Aug. 31, of the total of 5,504 authorized claims filed by Jewish communities, the pertinent Regulatory Commission had adjudicated (entirely
or partially) only 2,289 claims. Most properties returned are the least valuable and require a considerable amount of investment for maintenance to comply with Polish preservation law.

Romania: More than 200,000 private property claims were submitted pursuant to the 2003 deadline set under Romania's private restitution law. As of 2010, only some 119,000 of the claims had been adjudicated; of the adjudicated claims, in fewer than half was some sort of remedy proposed. As of 2010, only 5 percent (or about 10,300) of the more than 200,000 claims were determined to be eligible for compensation (but compensation has not yet necessarily been received). The fund created to provide compensation has been suspended and critics have called the restitution process corrupt.

Latvia: Three hundred communal properties have never been returned or compensated. Since the failure of a 2006 bill at an estimated value of 32 million LVL, or $60 million, nothing has been accomplised despite many new attempts and prime ministerial commissions to study the issue.

Some of the most improved countries on the issue are Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Serbia.

Lithuania: After considering several versions of restitution legislation, in 2009, the government proposed a compensation law based on what it claimed was 30 percent of the official value of those 152 properties. In June 2011, Lithuania's parliament approved the Law on Good Will Compensation for the Real Estate of Jewish Religious Communities authorizing the payment of 128 million litas (approximately $53 million) from 2013 to 2023 to compensate the Jewish community for communal property seized by the Nazi and Soviet occupation regimes. The law provides that the compensation is to be used for religious, cultural, health, sports and educational needs of Jews in Lithuania. Under the law, compensation funds will be transferred to a foundation designated by the government that will be administered by a governing body representing the Jewish Community in Lithuania, the Religious Jewish Community of Lithuania and other Jewish religious, health, cultural and education organizations. The law also provides that 3 million litas (approximately $1.25 million) will be made in one-time payments in 2012 “to support people of Jewish nationality who lived in Lithuania and suffered from totalitarian regimes during the period of occupation.”

Czech Republic: In November, the lower house of Parliament approved a plan to return billions of dollars worth of communal property that was confiscated from Jews and Christians by previous communist governments. According to the bill, the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities is set to receive $500,000 a year over 30 years.

Serbia: Serbia passed a private property restitution law in 2011. Although it excludes property seized during the Holocaust -- a condition the Jewish community leaders expect to be modified -- the law also notes that heirless property of Holocaust victims will be addressed in separate legislation.

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