Canadian Jewish leaders, East European officials talk restitution

Cnaan Liphshiz

TORONTO (JTA) — Holocaust survivors and Jewish community leaders from Canada met with representatives of central and eastern European countries in an effort to speed restitution of war-era property.

Over two days in Ottawa earlier this week, meetings took place with ambassadors or delegates from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Ukraine and the European Union.

The goal was to ensure that each country follows through on commitments made in the 2009 Terezin Declaration and implement a framework for restitution.

In some of the countries, restitution laws are “non-existent or have failed to achieve timely compensation for victims,” wrote Hank Rosenbaum, co-president of the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, in the Canadian Jewish News.

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Poland, for example, “has no restitution law regarding private real property that was seized and later kept by the Communist regime,” Rosenbaum wrote. “This is just one example of how, for many survivors, the chaos of the Shoah and the subsequent darkness of the Iron Curtain have left them with no means of securing compensation.”

Richard Marceau of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which organized the meetings, said each country was asked to develop an efficient system that would allow Holocaust survivors, no matter where they live, to file claims to have property returned or receive monetary compensation equivalent to the value of those properties.

Many Holocaust survivors are living in poverty and can’t afford protracted legal battles over property, Marceau told the National Post newspaper.

In 2009, Canada supported the adoption of the Terezin Declaration on restitution of Holocaust-era property, which the government noted at the time was non-binding.

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