Congress introduces legislation to help Holocaust survivors reclaim assets

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Legislation to assist survivors in obtaining restitution of assets stolen in the Holocaust was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today Act, or JUST, which was introduced this week, requires the State Department to report on the progress of certain European countries on the return or restitution of wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets.

In the Senate, the bill was introduced by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. In the House, Reps. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., and Chris Smith, R-N.J., introduced the measure.

The JUST Act builds on the international Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues of 2009, which affirmed that the protection of property rights is an essential component of a democratic society based on the rule of law, and recognizes the importance of restituting or compensating Holocaust-related confiscations.

“Tragically, we are losing survivors every day, and it is my sincere hope that this legislation, by shining a spotlight and solidifying this issue as an American foreign policy priority, will spur action in countries that are falling short of their obligations, ultimately resulting in a measure of justice for these individuals who have waited far too long,” Baldwin said in a statement.

Crowley, who chairs the Democratic Caucus, said in a statement: “While we’re decades removed from the Holocaust, the pain is kept fresh for many in part because of the substantial amount of Jewish-owned property that still hasn’t been returned to their rightful owners after having been seized. This is unacceptable. Families who saw their property or possessions taken should be compensated for that loss.”

Numerous Jewish groups are backing the measure.