Restitution hope for survivors?

November 11, 2009 by Robert Goot
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It is 20 years since the Wall separating East and West Berlin was demolished. the Executive Council of Australian Jewry President Robert Goot updates the re-appraisal of restitution for victims of the Holocaust.

ECAJ President Robert Goot

ECAJ President Robert Goot

As the world-wide media mark the historic significance of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, Jewish communities note the special significance of this anniversary for the Claims Conference. The fall of the Berlin Wall followed by the unification of Germany and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union opened very significant new opportunities for the Claims Conference on behalf of Holocaust survivors.

During the negotiations between the four Occupying Powers with the two Germanys, which led to the unification of Germany, the Claims Conference succeeded in securing commitments for additional individual compensation measures and for the extension of the West German property restitution legislation to the territory of the former German Democratic Republic. In subsequent negotiations with the unified German Federal Government, the Claims Conference achieved the establishment of the Article 2 program which by now secured life-time pensions to over 78,000 Holocaust survivors who were prevented from filing claims under the West German Federal Indemnification Law (BEG) which the Claims Conference negotiated in the 1952 Luxembourg Agreements.

The extension of the West German property restitution legislation to the former communist East Germany made it possible for thousands of Jewish former owners or their heirs to claim the restitution of their assets and for the Claims Conference to be designated as the Successor Organization for unclaimed private and communal Jewish property. Recovered funds from the Successor Organization have allowed the Claims Conference to make more than $1 billion in grants to social welfare agencies around the world that assist the neediest and most vulnerable Jewish victims of Nazi persecution and to organizations that engage in Shoah research, education and documentation. These grants provide the major funds to help provide a “social safety net” for Nazi victims around the world.

The collapse of the Soviet Union opened for the Claims Conference legal and formal access to the Holocaust survivors residing in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. This led to the establishment of the Central and Eastern European Fund (CEEF) funded by the German Federal Government. Thus far, the CEEF program secured 23,000 life-time pensions to Holocaust survivors in the FSU and in the former Soviet Block countries. Simultaneously, the Claims Conference has been making very significant grants to Jewish communities, social and cultural agencies serving Holocaust survivors in those countries.

For World Jewry November 9 is an extremely tragic date. That was the infamous date 71 years ago, Kristallnacht, the burning of the synagogues in Germany and Austria which was the prelude to the Holocaust. The Claims Conference was established 58 years ago to deal with the personal and material consequences of the greatest catastrophe that has befallen European Jewry. This continues to be the sacred mission of the Claims Conference.


One Response to “Restitution hope for survivors?”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    Isn’t this wonderful news. I hope the many years Jonathon Levy has been faithfully and doggedly supporting the cases of other survivors will soon have their claims come to fruition too.

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