Shoah restitution deadlines
The Jewish Internet with Mark Mietkiewicz, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer
Their numbers are shrinking but their needs are not. Various programs have been established over the years to provide restitution to survivors of the Holocaust, and to return property seized during World War II and held by governments, art galleries, banks and insurance companies since then.
While the deadlines for applying for many restitution programs have passed, some funds are still accepting applications, and a new one is about to go into effect. This month, I’ll tell you which programs are still accepting claims from survivors as well as their heirs.
Please note that there are many different funds, and application requirements can be confusing. You may need to engage a lawyer to assist in the claims process.
Just this year, the Jewish Claims Conference reached an agreement with the German Finance Ministry to provide assistance for Jewish child survivors of the Holocaust.
“The joint fund will recognize survivors worldwide who were in camps, ghettos, hiding and false identity for psychological and medical trauma caused during their deprived childhoods,” said Claims Conference President Julius Berman (bit.ly/hclaims1).
Under the terms of the agreement, “survivors of the Shoah who were born Jan. 1, 1928 or later and who were in concentration camps, ghettos, or for at least six months under Nazi occupation (or 12 months in Nazi Axis countries) in hiding or under false identity will be eligible to receive a special one-time payment of 2,500 euros (approximately $3,280 US) because of special needs.”
Heirs are not entitled to compensation unless the child survivor applied and subsequently died. Applications will become available on Jan. 1, 2015.
The Claims Conference site also has information about other established funds that are still in effect. Programs vary according to the current residency of the survivor. These apply to survivors living in North America, Israel and Western Europe:
• Article 2 Fund: a pension for people who were interned in a concentration camp or ghetto, performed forced labor, or lived in hiding or under false identity.
• Hardship Fund: a one-time payment for people who fled Nazi invasion or lived under curfew.
• Payments directly from the German government: pensions and one-time payments for work performed in ghettos (bit.ly/hclaims2).
The “Late Applicants Fund“ is intended for heirs of former owners of Jewish property and assets located in the former East Germany (bit.ly/hclaims3).
Unlike some other funds that benefit survivors only, this one can be claimed by spouses, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, siblings, nephews and nieces. A 1,447-page list of asset owners’ names may be downloaded from the site. (bit.ly/hclaims4).
Important: This fund is a last opportunity for claimants who missed earlier deadlines. Applications must reach the fund by Dec. 31, 2014.
Hashava, the Holocaust Restitution Company of Israel, was established to return assets to the heirs of victims of the Holocaust. As the site explains, “Thousands of Jews across Europe invested in pre-state Israel before WWII. These proud Jews believed in the dream of a Jewish State, so they opened bank accounts and bought stocks, bonds and real estate. Many tragically perished at the hands of the Nazis. Their investments did not.”
The online database contains more than 60,000 entries to be matched up with rightful heirs, many of whom may be living in North America. The database can be searched by name, city, country and asset type: real estate, cash and securities. An online form starts the claims process (bit.ly/hclaims5).
Company director Dr. Yisrael Peleg recently told Haaretz, “We operate out of a deep sense of mission, intent on correcting an old injustice. It’s more than a mission, it’s a bequest. It’s the last will of Zionists who perished in the Holocaust. We trace their property in this country and return it to their heirs, here or abroad (bit.ly/hclaims6).”
The company will be operational until 2017 when remaining funds will be transferred to the Israeli treasury.
Because no one site has all the details about survivor funds and assistance, I also recommend visiting:
• the London-based Association of Jewish Refugees – Claims News (bit.ly/hclaims7)
• the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants (bit.ly/hclaims8)
• and the U.S. National Archives Holocaust-Era Assets: A Finding Aid to Records at the National Archives (bit.ly/hclaims9)
Several years ago, I came across the story of Kaspar Sutter, Massimiliano Desumma and three other high school students at the Gymnasium Neufeld in Berne, Switzerland, who set out to right a wrong.
As they wrote at their website, “It came as a shock to us to realize, that some 50 years after the end of World War II, there are still Holocaust survivors who are in need of support and who, so far have never received any compensation for their sufferings. We feel that one cannot afford to wait any longer and must give these people a sign of solidarity and support (bit.ly/hclaims10).”
Their efforts spread across the country and the Solidarity Fund for the Victims of the Holocaust was created (bit.ly/hclaims11).
Two years later, the five Swiss youths presented 50,000 Swiss Francs (more than $30,000) to Amcha, the Israeli Center for Holocaust Survivors and the Second Generation.
Mark Mietkiewicz may be reached at email@example.com.