Israel to launch global effort to find property lost in Holocaust
The Israeli government and the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency are launching a worldwide initiative to identify property lost or stolen during the Holocaust, dpa reported on Friday according to the Ha'aretz daily.
Called HEART - Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Task Force - and featuring an annual budget of around 2.5 million dollars, the project aims to obtain restitution for survivors or their heirs.
"This is the first time since the Holocaust that a general comprehensive program is being launched to gather information with the eventual purpose of receiving compensation for property looted, stolen or forcibly sold during the Holocaust," Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky was quoted by Ha'aretz as saying.
In its first stage, the project will focus on identifying individuals with potential claims, mainly against Eastern European governments.
Shortly before, or immediately after, the fall of Communism, Eastern European governments passed legislation allowing Jews to claim restitution for property lost or stolen during the Holocaust.
But according to Moshe Sanbar, who served for many years in senior positions in several organizations fighting for Holocaust restitution, these countries only compensated a small number of Jews with minor payments.
The project is expected to be launched in early March, with events in Jerusalem and Washington, and will be accompanied by a large advertising campaign to inform survivors and their families about the opportunity to make claims.
Survivors or heirs whose families owned private property - including real estate, movable items or intangible personal property - and have never been compensated will be asked to contact the project's staff.
A website and a call center available in 13 languages will be launched to facilitate the information-gathering process.