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Australia declared war on Nazi Germany on September 3, 1939, and almost one million Australians served in World War II (WWII).  Australia’s Jewish population grew significantly during the 20th century.  The community numbered an estimated 23,000 in 1933.  Between 1933 and 1939, Australia absorbed between 7,000 and 8,000 Jewish refugees from Europe, including from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.  A further 2,000 were deported to Australia by the British government in 1940.  An estimated 127,000 Jewish refugees migrated to Australia between 1946 and 1961, the majority of whom were Holocaust survivors.  The 2016 census reported 91,022 people identifying as Jewish in Australia.  The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, an affiliate of the World Jewish Congress, describes itself as the officially elected representative organization and voice of the country’s Jewish community.  A number of other Jewish organizations are also present in Australia.

The Department of State does not know of any cases of Holocaust-era confiscated property in Australia or of laws specifically addressing the restitution of Holocaust-era property.  There has been one reported case of a prominent Australian art gallery voluntarily returning a painting believed to have been sold under duress.  The most tangible aspects of the Terezin Declaration for Australia are therefore the country’s commitment to supporting Holocaust survivors and promoting Holocaust remembrance.

Certain private social welfare organizations provide assistance to Holocaust survivors resident in Australia, with support from the Australian government and significant financial support from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference).  Australia joined the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in June 2019.

Immovable Private, Communal/Religious, and Heirless Property

The Department of State does not know of any Holocaust-era immovable property claims in Australia.  As Oxford Scholarship Online’s publication, “Searching for Justice After the Holocaust:  Fulfilling the Terezin Declaration and Immovable Property Restitution” notes, “[no] immovable property was confiscated from Jews or other targeted groups in Australia during the war.  As a result, no immovable property restitution laws were required.”

Movable Property: Nazi-Confiscated and Looted Art

Australia is a signatory to the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.  The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts reported that it was not aware of a legal framework in the country that specifically relates to the restitution of Holocaust-era property, a view shared by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

However, the country’s Department of Communications and the Arts notes that the Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Act (2013) provides legal protection for cultural objects on loan from overseas lenders for temporary public exhibition in Australia.  Institutions such as museums, galleries, libraries, and archives seeking accreditation under the scheme must demonstrate robust due diligence and provenance policies and practices.  The Australian Federal Police reported that it was not aware of any examples of a law enforcement investigation in Australia resulting in the return of Holocaust-era property, but it was aware of an example of voluntary restitution.  In early 2014, the National Gallery of Victoria agreed to return a painting, “Head of a Man,” believed to have been sold under duress.  The gallery’s decision to return the painting followed a request made on behalf of two South African women deemed to be the legal heirs of a Jewish industrialist who auctioned the painting at a reduced price in Amsterdam in 1933 after fleeing Berlin.  The portrait had been sold to the National Gallery of Victoria in 1940.

In 2015, the government published a best practice guide to collecting cultural material that also refers to provenance research and due diligence and provides guidance to cultural institutions considering a request for restitution, among other topics.  Australia’s most prominent art galleries, Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia and Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria, have their own due diligence and provenance policies that require thorough research regarding the provenance of art works prior to acquisition.

Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property

Australia is party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.  The convention requires parties to ensure that no collecting institution accepts illegally exported cultural property.  According to one commentator, Australia’s Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act of 1986 implemented Australia’s obligations under the UNESCO convention, although its focus on the cultural heritage of foreign countries does not adequately address the issue of Nazi-looted art.  Australia has not established any spoliation procedure or advisory body to adjudicate looted art claims.

Australia received 3,307 books from Jewish Cultural Reconstruction after WWII.  The Department does not know whether provenance research has been conducted on these holdings or whether other Judaica may have reached Australia during or after WWII.

Access to Archival Documents

The Australian government’s best practice guide to collecting cultural material directs collecting institutions to international databases of stolen art, including the INTERPOL Stolen Works of Art database, Art Loss Register, and national databases within relevant countries.  Certain Australian galleries have established their own databases documenting the provenance of their collections.  For example, the National Gallery of Australia’s Provenance Research Project, Art in Europe 1933-1945, transparently documents the provenance of all works in its collection presumed to have been in Europe between 1933 and 1945.

Education, Remembrance, Research, and Memorial Sites

In June 2019, Australia became a full member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).  In a statement, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said, “Australia’s IHRA membership demonstrates our continuing commitment to combating anti-Semitism and protecting freedom of religion.”  Ceremonies marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day were held in Sydney and Melbourne on January 27, 2019, and a presentation by Holocaust survivors at the Sydney Jewish Museum was fully subscribed.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) reported that learning about the Holocaust is mandated in Australia’s national curriculum and in the curricula of every Australian state and territory, which public and private schools are required to follow.  For example, students in Year 10 (high school sophomore equivalent) examine “significant events of WWII, including the Holocaust.”  The inclusion of the Holocaust as part of the mandatory Year 10 curriculum was advocated by the ECAJ and included in the national curriculum beginning in 2008.

At least three institutions in the country have permanent exhibitions dedicated to Holocaust education and remembrance.  The Sydney Jewish Museum hosts a permanent Holocaust exhibition tracing the persecution and murder of European Jews and the new lives forged by survivors in Australia.  Perth hosts the Holocaust Institute of Western Australia, and Melbourne hosts the Jewish Holocaust Centre, a museum and resource center that exhibits photographs, artifacts, and documents donated by Melbourne Holocaust survivors.  The Holocaust is also documented as part of the Second World War Gallery at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, which welcomes more than one million visitors per year.

The Welfare of Holocaust (Shoah) Survivors and Other Victims of Nazi Persecution

Private social welfare organizations provide support to Holocaust survivors, including JewishCare Victoria and JewishCare New South Wales (NSW), both of which have received grants from the Claims Conference.  For example, JewishCare Victoria’s Holocaust Survivor Support Program assists eligible Holocaust survivors with tailored services, including in-home and personal care, therapies, and medical assistance.  Service providers such as JewishCare receive financial support from the Australian government.  According to the Claims Conference, JewishCare NSW serves 1,800 Sydney-based Holocaust survivors, most of whom are from Central Europe, and JewishCare Victoria serves approximately 1,500 Holocaust survivors in the state of Victoria.  In 2015, the Claims Conference budgeted 16,646,630 U.S. dollars for programs in Australia, consisting of direct compensation; social welfare services; and Shoah education, documentation, and research.



Nazi Germany invaded France on May 10, 1940, and on June 22, 1940, Nazi Germany and France entered into an Armistice Agreement.  Germany annexed Alsace and Lorraine, while 80 percent of the country, including Northern France and the entire Atlantic Coast, came under German military occupation.  Beginning in July 1940, the so-called “Vichy” government under Philippe Pétain in theory governed France, but in practice, it was only able to govern freely in unoccupied (Southern and Eastern) France.

Laws enacted in both occupied and unoccupied France curtailed the civil rights of Jews and expropriated their property.  In October 1940, the Vichy government enacted the first Law on the Status of the Jews, which defined who was Jewish and precluded Jews from civil and military service and from the education, media, and cinema sectors.  The Nazi German military command in occupied France began a process of economic “Aryanization,” including confiscating Jewish‑owned assets.  An October 1940 military decree defined Jewish-owned firms and established the appointment of provisional administrators for those firms.  A February 1941 French law allowed the administrators to sell firms without the permission of the Jewish owners.  A further German decree in April 1941 and corresponding French law further restricted occupations available to Jews (prohibiting trade and banking, among others) and expanded the scope of confiscation.  A series of French laws from June to December of 1941, including a second Jewish Status Law, expanded many of these restrictions to unoccupied France.

At least 75,670 Jews were deported from France to concentration and extermination camps; of the 69,000 sent to Auschwitz, 2,570 survived.  Some of those deported passed through multiple camps.  Another 3,000 Jews died in French internment camps.  Most of the deportation trains left from the Drancy Camp, carrying at least 64,000 Jews.  Included in that number were 13,000 Jews (4,000 of whom were children) arrested in July 1942 by French police and held at the Vélodrome d’Hiver sporting arena before their deportation.  At least 6,000 French Roma were interned, and 200 were deported and killed during the war.

The Allied landing in Normandy in June 1944 began the liberation of France, but deportations continued.  At least another 2,686 Jews were deported before German forces surrendered Paris on August 25, 1944.  The European Jewish Congress estimates that approximately 500,000 Jews currently reside in France.

In 1995, the French government recognized for the first time France’s responsibility for the deportations when President Jacques Chirac publicly acknowledged the Vichy government’s collaboration with Nazi Germany and apologized to the Jewish people on behalf of the French Republic.

France endorsed the Terezin Declaration in 2009 and the Guidelines and Best Practices in 2010.  The government has laws and mechanisms in place for property restitution, and NGOs and advocacy groups reported the government made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust‑era claims in recent years, including for foreign citizens.

Immovable Private, Communal/Religious, and Heirless Property

France has restitution and reparation measures in place covering all three types of immovable property:  private, communal, and heirless.  These measures were put in place in two phases.  The first occurred in the immediate post-war years and ceased around 1954; the second commenced in the late 1990s and is ongoing.

In 2014, France and the United States signed the bilateral Agreement on Compensation for Certain Victims of Holocaust-Related Deportation from France Who Are Not Covered by French Programs.  The agreement provides an exclusive mechanism to compensate persons who survived deportation from France (or their spouses or other designees) but were not eligible for the 1948 pension program established by the government for French nationals or from international agreements concluded by the government to address Holocaust deportation claims.  Pursuant to the agreement, which entered into force on November 1, 2015, France provided a lump sum of $60 million to the United States.

Private Property

France’s initial restitution measures came into force through a number of decrees issued between 1944 and 1945.  In addition, in early 1945, the government established two new authorities – one to examine complaints against provisional administrators of property and another to administer restitution.  The 1946 French War Damages Act also provided compensation for material damage caused by acts of war to movable and immovable property.  Early restitution measures ceased around 1954 after the French government passed laws granting amnesty to various Vichy government officials in 1951 and 1953.

In the 1990s, the French government convened the Mattéoli Commission to examine the conditions under which the occupying forces and Vichy authorities had confiscated property.  Among other findings, the Mattéoli Commission determined that French banks froze accounts or seized assets of approximately 56,400 people holding about 80,000 bank accounts, with assets worth approximately $1.9 billion in 2019 dollars.  French banks worked in cooperation with the Mattéoli Commission to establish a fund, initially capitalized at $50 million, to compensate victims of French banks under the Vichy government.

In 1999, the French government established the Commission for the Compensation for Victims of Spoliation (CIVS, or the “Drai Commission”) as a separate administrative body under the authority of the prime minister.  CIVS helps manage the French bank fund and recommends and examines reparations to individual victims (or their heirs) who had not been compensated previously for damages resulting from confiscation of their material or financial property carried out under anti-Semitic decrees issued either by the Vichy government or by the occupying Nazi Germans.  Non-bank related compensation is publicly funded and is paid through several different organizations, including the Unified Jewish Social Fund (FSJU) and the National Office of Veterans and Combat Victims.  As of June 2019, CIVS had recommended compensation totaling approximately $600 million.  The commission does not publish reports on actual compensation awarded due to privacy restrictions on individual claimants’ information.  However, on average, victims or their heirs receive compensation six to eight months after CIVS makes a recommendation.  CIVS activities are ongoing.

Communal Property

Although the Nazi occupying forces did not have an explicit plan to destroy all synagogues, the advancing German army or Nazi German bombing destroyed at least 20, and German forces and Nazi sympathizers looted and/or partially destroyed many others.  Under the 1905 French law on separation of church and state, places of worship, including synagogues, became property of the French government.  The French government in turn made them available to worshippers.  The European Shoah Legacy Institute’s 2012 review of immovable property restitution found that because of this ownership structure, compensation for destroyed communal property was based upon laws relating to war damages, such as the 1946 French War Damages Act.

Heirless Property

A 1950 law permitted Jewish persons or organizations to be appointed as custodians of Jewish heirless property in France.  In 2000, shortly after the Mattéoli Commission issued a report that estimated the maximum value of remaining unclaimed property at approximately $395 million, the French government established the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah and endowed it with approximately $443 million.

Movable Property: Nazi-Confiscated and Looted Art

About 100,000 works of art were stolen from French Jews or Jews who had fled to France before the German occupation, according to estimates by French authorities.  From 1945 to 1949, roughly 60,000 of the artworks were returned to France, of which about 45,000 were then claimed by their owners.  Additional works of art have been found at a slow pace after that time, and the location of the remaining 40,000 works of art is unclear.  Of the recovered works, most of the unclaimed pieces were sold at auction.  The French state kept about 2,100 of the highest quality paintings and entrusted them to museums, particularly the Louvre, but specially designated them “Musées nationaux recuperation,” or MNR (National Museums Recovery).  Experts say it is unclear how those pieces were chosen and how many might have been looted or sold under duress.

Millions of books were taken from France by the Nazis.  Most that were in the zones of the western Allies after the war were returned to France, and many of these books were returned to their original owners – 172,812 to 1,660 individual owners, mostly Jews, and 103,517 to 392 mostly Jewish institutions.

France endorsed the 1998 Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art and is one of only five of the 42 countries that attended the Washington Conference to set up a commission to address the restitution of and/or compensation for art objects looted and displaced during the Nazi years.  CIVS has responsibility for both restitution and compensation, primarily providing compensation to individual victims or their heirs.

For reparation measures, if a specific work of art cannot be found, compensation is provided based on the estimated financial value of the work at the time it was looted.  Through the end of 2018, CIVS had recommended compensation totaling approximately $55 million.

Few artworks have been returned, in part because France has not yet passed a law permitting state museums to deaccession objects in their collections.  In cases where the property in question is included on the list of MNR works that were returned from Germany after the war, restitution is easier, and such property must be returned to its rightful owners.  Claims must be filed with the archives departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Museums.

Critics contend that restitution has been haphazard and that French museums have been slow or even loath to return Nazi-looted artwork.  An April 2018 Ministry of Culture public report identified 2,008 cultural works (primarily MNR) with no identified owner and acknowledged that the current policy of art restitution was inefficient and lacking ambition, coordination, leadership, and visibility.  In April 2019, the office La Mission de recherche et de restitution des biens culturels spoliés (the Mission for Research and Restitution of Spoliated Cultural Property) was officially created within the Ministry of Culture.  The five-person staff, with an annual budget of approximately $225,000, is engaged in seeking out the rightful owners or heirs of artworks, including those in museums and galleries, stolen or sold under duress during the country’s occupation (not only those that are MNR).

In the spring of 2019, the French government transferred the authority for final decisions on art restitution claims from the Ministry of Culture to CIVS to address criticism that museum officials would be reluctant to hand over valuable artwork.  The Ministry of Culture also said it would take a more active role in the search and restitution of stolen property.

On April 1, 2019, Foreign Minister Le Drian attended a ceremony returning artwork to its pre‑WWII owners at the French consulate in New York.  During his remarks, he reiterated that the French government had committed to “accelerate and intensify the work of identifying and restituting to their owners” looted works of art.

Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property

France received 8,193 books and 125 museum and 219 synagogue pieces from Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (JCR) after World War II.  Specifically, the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme, the successor museum to the Musée d’art juif de Paris, established in 1948 by a private association to pay homage to a culture that had been destroyed by the Holocaust, received Judaica objects from the JCR, and the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine received books.  Although provenance research on art objects is partially carried out in France, so far as is known, no provenance research is being conducted on Judaica holdings in France’s cultural institutions.

Most archives of French Jewish organizations that were plundered by the Nazis and subsequently taken to Moscow by the Soviets have been returned to France.  Library collections of French Jews that were taken by the Soviet Trophy Brigades remain in Minsk, Belarus.

Access to Archival Documents

France maintains archives relevant to Holocaust research and has measures in place to guarantee access to researchers and relatives of victims, while also including provisions on privacy and data protection.  Most Holocaust research in France takes place at the Documentation Center of the Shoah Memorial, a private institution that receives funding from national and local French government bodies, the European Commission, and private institutions and individuals.  The center contains a fully digitized and archived collection of 30 million documents related to the Holocaust from a variety of sources.  These include the Contemporary Jewish Documentation Center, a database of victims of anti-Semitic persecution in France, a database of Jewish Resistance members, and the Righteous of France database.  Access to the complete collection is available to all persons who can prove they are doing research on the Holocaust.  Individuals must fill out a registration form, valid for one year, and present identification.  An abridged version of this catalogue, without personal data of the persons mentioned, is available through the memorial’s website.

The Paris-based Shoah Memorial does not have framework agreements with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).  However, the French Memorial Shoah Foundation signed specific conventions related to archives with USHMM in 2014, and USHMM has enjoyed strong cooperation with French archives for decades.

Education, Remembrance, Research, and Memorial Sites

France is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.  The government holds several annual ceremonies of remembrance and commemoration.  These include Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, French Judaism Day on June 1, and a ceremony in Paris honoring the victims of the Velodrome d’Hiver roundup of July 16-17, 1942.  Government leaders, including the president and prime minister, regularly attend these commemorations.  The government also preserves several memorial sites throughout France.  These include the Natzweiler-Struthof Camp, the Shoah Memorial on the site of the Drancy camp, and the Montluc Prison National Memorial in Lyon, where political opponents, members of the resistance, and victims of anti-Semitic legislation were detained.  The government also provides education on human rights and on preventing all forms of racial, religious, or ethnic discrimination, including education about the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes, within the national education curriculum.  Teaching about the Holocaust is mandatory.  It is taught in history class at three levels:  at ages 10 and 11, age 15, and ages 17 and 18.  Schools frequently arrange visits to sites of remembrance, such as Jewish cemeteries, sites of deportation, and the Shoah Memorial, for educational opportunities.

The Welfare of Holocaust (Shoah) Survivors and Other Victims of Nazi Persecution

The government-run Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah provides social welfare services in addition to compensation and coordinates closely with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.  The FSJU, an umbrella organization for private Jewish organizations in France, provides emergency assistance for elderly victims, particularly for medical and dental assistance, as well as home modifications to help keep the elderly in their houses and apartments.  Since 2002, the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah has donated more than €3 million to the Shoah Survivors Emergency Fund managed by the FSJU’s Passerelles service, a national call center that provides social support and guidance for Holocaust survivors and their children.  In 2018, 262 people received assistance from the emergency fund.

The Aid Association for Elderly and Sick Israelites provides homecare services for survivors residing in Paris and the surrounding area, as well as a guardianship program for mentally impaired elderly survivors that provides legal and financial management services.  The CASIP‑COJASOR Foundation of Paris and the Israelite Social Action Committee of Marseille provide homecare, case management and guardianship services, and home-delivered meals.



Before World War II, Italy had a population of about 50,000 Jews, of whom approximately 8,000 were killed in the Holocaust.  According the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, approximately 28,000 Jews live in the country today.  Italian Jews, including those who had converted to Catholicism, experienced two periods of persecution.  The first began in 1938 with the adoption of the racial laws under Benito Mussolini.  In 1938, Royal Decree 1728 banned marriage between Jewish and non-Jewish Italians; prohibited Jewish books; excluded Jews from public office and other professional positions, including in banks, insurance companies, and schools; and introduced limits on Jewish businesses and property ownership.  In March 1939, the government established the Agency for Real Estate Management and Liquidation, responsible for administering confiscated “exceeding assets,” the term it gave to assets the dictatorship determined Jews were not allowed to have.

The second period of persecution started in 1943, when Italian and Nazi German authorities began arresting Jews, seizing their assets, and deporting many to concentration camps north of the Alps.  In January 1944, after the king removed Mussolini from power, the Badoglio government adopted two decrees abolishing the racial laws for the central and southern Italian regions liberated by the Allied powers.  In the Nazi-occupied northern regions, however, restrictions on Jews became stricter under Mussolini’s puppet state, the Italian Social Republic (Repubblica di Salò), until its final defeat by the Allies in April 1945.

The Italian government is committed to the Terezin Declaration and to complying with its goals and objectives.  The Union of Italian Jewish Communities reported that in general most confiscated assets were returned to their owners or next of kin, except in cases when the latter could not be identified.  However, governmental institutions have not followed up on the Anselmi Commission’s recommendations to try to identify survivors or their heirs entitled to unclaimed property.  (In December 1998, the Italian government created the Anselmi Commission, a technical body whose mandate was to investigate the confiscation and restitution of Jewish assets during the Holocaust.  The Commission found evidence of at least 7,847 local and national government decrees expropriating Jewish assets during the Fascist era and analyzed 7,187 of them.)  The decrees affected approximately 8,000 individuals and 230 companies.

Assets seized by provincial authorities have not been quantified or returned.

Immovable Private, Communal/Religious, and Heirless Property

After World War II, the government approved norms to return seized assets to Jewish victims of persecution or to their heirs.  On May 11, 1947, the government adopted the Decree of the Temporary Head of State 364, which established inheritance norms for victims of racial crimes.

Private Property

The country’s Agency for Real Estate Management and Liquidation (EGELI) had reported in 1939 that properties it seized were worth more than 55 million lira (approximately $53 million in current value).  After the war, EGELI was tasked with cataloguing and returning seized property.  Property owners criticized the process because legislation (DLLGT 393/1946) required them to pay EGELI for administrative expenses the agency incurred during the war in order to receive their assets.  The value of assets confiscated by provincial authorities, pursuant to a November 1943 police order, has not been quantified.

By the end of 1944, the Italian government had confiscated bank accounts worth 75 million lira (approximately $6.9 million), government bonds worth more than 36 million lira ($3.4 million), shares worth almost 731 million lira ($69 million), land worth 855 million lira ($80 million), and 198 million lira ($12.4 million) worth of buildings, according to a March 1945 Ministry of Finance report.

Gold and other valuables taken from Jewish families before the 1943 Nazi deportations from the Rome ghetto have not been found.  The Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI) has begun working with the Bank of Italy to identify the contents of a number of sacks stored there containing unclaimed miscellaneous coins, assets, and financial instruments (bonds, insurance policies, etc.) recovered in Rome at the end of the war.  UCEI understands that the Italian government assembled a commission in early 2019, led by the Ministry of Economy, to examine the items and to provide historians with material shedding light on the economic conditions faced by Jewish families living in Rome during the war.  The commission’s goal is to make a catalogue of the items in storage, assign a current value to each item, and attempt to identify the owner(s).

The Anselmi Commission released its final report and recommendations in April 2002.  The report’s findings show, in general, that assets were returned to deported survivors who submitted claims, but those survivors or heirs who did not submit claims were not proactively traced and compensated.  The Commission recommended that Italian authorities investigate unclaimed assets in order to identify survivors and heirs who may not have filed claims, and highlighted in particular the need to investigate the unclaimed assets stored in the Italian investment bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, which provides financing services for public-sector investments in Italy.  Government institutions have not, in most cases, followed up on these recommendations.  Furthermore, UCEI was aware of several anecdotal cases where Jews sold their assets at below market value during the Holocaust due to dire and life-threatening circumstances.  Post-war trauma and fear caused many Holocaust survivors and heirs not to pursue compensation for many years.

The Italian legal principle of acquisitive prescription, by which citizens rightfully own certain immovable assets not claimed within twenty years, limits the scope of possible restitution at this point.

Communal Real Property

During World War II, Nazis and Italian Fascists confiscated a number of libraries, archives, and other cultural assets belonging to Jewish communities in the country.  Most of the libraries and archives were returned after the war.  Law DLG 736/1948 extended provisions to the Jewish community that first were provided only to the Catholic community for the repair and reconstruction of buildings of worship and premises of public charities.

Heirless Real Property

Italy adopted heirless property legislation in 1947 (Law DLCPS 364/1947).  In the 1950s, however, the government decided to use unclaimed, heirless property still under its possession as a “refund” for the unpaid EGELI administrative expenses, without official forfeiture on the rightful owners’ behalf or consulting the Jewish community.  In 1997, the government passed Law 233/1997 providing that any formerly Jewish-owned asset still held by the state not traceable to a rightful owner would be transferred to UCEI for distribution to relevant communities.

Movable Property: Nazi-Confiscated and Looted Art

Italy has not instituted specific laws regulating the restitution of movable property, but rather has treated such claims in the same manner as immovable property.  UCEI confirmed that it was aware of no outstanding claims of the Jewish community in Italy concerning Nazi-confiscated or looted art.  The Ministry of Cultural Assets has established a committee, of which the UCEI president is a member, to identify looted art in Italy’s museums.  Previous government attempts to identify stolen art were hampered by the lack of systematic provenance studies and comprehensive catalogs of looted or confiscated art.

In January 1999, the Inter-Ministerial Commission for the Restitution of Artworks Seized During World War II concluded there were no artworks belonging to Jews in Italian museums or institutions, based solely on examination of the “Siviero archives.”  Rodolfo Siviero was director of the Ministry of Culture’s office dedicated to recovering the artworks and had created the archive while tracing and helping to return to Italy pieces that had been illegally exported between the 1930s and 1980s.  Experts acknowledge that Siviero’s efforts are not complete by modern provenance standards.  One expert reported some of the stolen artworks catalogued in a database kept by the Carabinieri (Italian gendarme police) were likely looted from Jewish families; the Ministry of Cultural Assets reportedly plans to work with the Carabinieri to identify which artworks had belonged to Jews.

Most of Italy’s activity in this area has been at the federal level, but much of the looting was done at the city and communal levels.  Recent research concerning the latter has improved, partly due to Italy’s participation in the EU-sponsored project “TransCultAA-Transfer of Cultural Objects in the Alpe Adria Region in the 20th Century.”

Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property

In 1943 and 1944, Nazi German and Fascist Italian officers burned or destroyed archives of many local Jewish communities, which made it all the more difficult to track cultural property and its ownership.  In Turin and Alessandria, both the archives and the libraries were vandalized or destroyed.  In Turin, parts of the confiscated Jewish library were returned after the war.

The Jewish community in Rome, which comprised almost half of the country’s Jewish population before the war, successfully hid many historical artifacts, but some items in the community’s archive were confiscated or destroyed.  In 1943, the Nazis seized the contents of two libraries located in Rome in the same building:  the library of Rome’s Jewish community (4,728 books, 28 incunabula, and 183 books printed in the 16th century) and the library of the Italian Rabbinical College, a collection originally from Florence but later transferred to Rome (comprising 6,580 books and 1,760 booklets).  The libraries contained prayer books, documents, prints, and manuscripts from all periods of Jewish history in Italy.  The rabbinical library’s collection was recovered in Germany after the war, but the majority of the contents of the Rome community library disappeared.  In 2003, the Italian government established a committee of inquiry.  It was unable to determine the fate of most of the contents, although it identified some manuscripts held in the collections of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati as having come from the Rome libraries.  UCEI representatives noted that there was little hope of recovering the books, as they did not contain permanent markings identifying them as part of the libraries and were most likely dispersed worldwide.  The UCEI representatives also stated that the majority of movable property taken during the Holocaust era was believed to have been taken at the local level, without administrative orders from national fascist authorities, and therefore was difficult to trace systematically.

Access to Archival Documents

In general, public archives are fully accessible, although some researchers reported to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance that they had experienced occasional obstacles accessing Holocaust-era records at some state archives.  The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum reports good and consistent cooperation with Italian governmental archives.

Banks such as Intesa San Paolo and Monte dei Paschi di Siena have reorganized and preserved some of the EGELI archives, but researchers note the lack of digitalization, the redress of which would facilitate their work and asset restitution.

Education, Remembrance, Research, and Memorial Sites

In 2000, parliament established International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, and each year, a series of ceremonies – including one presided over by the President of the Republic – commemorates the Holocaust.  In December 2017, a law established March 6 as Memorial Day for the Righteous of Humanity, commemorating those who “in whatever time and whatever place have done good by human lives, have fought for human rights during genocides and have defended the dignity of the human person.”  The Ministry of Education and the City of Rome organize two fully paid trips annually for high school students to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other Nazi concentration and death camps.  The government also holds an essay competition and other projects for high school students to cultivate Holocaust knowledge and remembrance.  Every spring, Italian authorities commemorate the March 24, 1944 Ardeatine massacre, in which Nazi German soldiers murdered 335 people, including 65 Jews, outside of Rome.

As part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the tradition of remembrance, the City of Milan allotted €500,000 ($550,825) for the construction of a Shoah Memorial.  The Ministry for Cultural Assets provided about €180,000 (about $198,297) to the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan, and the government provided €49 million (approximately $54 million) for the Museum of Italian Jews in Ferrara.  Rome’s city government has allotted more than €13 million (approximately $14.3 million), plus the land, for the construction of a new site for the Shoah Rome Museum, although construction has been delayed.

The Welfare of Holocaust (Shoah) Survivors and Other Victims of Nazi Persecution

In 1955, parliament approved law number 96, extending benefits originally granted to victims of political persecution to victims of racial crimes and their heirs.  In 1980, Parliament passed Law 791 to provide a monthly stipend (equivalent to €500 or about $545) for Holocaust victims or their children.  Currently, 1,500 Jews are said to receive the stipend.  In 1998, the Court of Cassation ruled victims of “moral violence” (i.e., psychological trauma and extreme hardship) were eligible for the same benefits as victims of political persecution and racial crimes, and in 2003, the Court of Cassation specified that Jews expelled from schools under Fascism, as well as their spouses and children, were eligible for these benefits.  In 2015, the Prime Minister’s Office extended benefits to Jews who had been living in Libya under Italian occupation, many of whom were prohibited from attending public schools, dismissed from work, and subjected to forced labor and forced migration.  The Union of Italian Jewish Communities believes that interpretation of these laws has become more restrictive over the last five years, preventing new applicants from obtaining the benefits if they do not have documentation, eyewitness accounts, or were too young to attend school during the adoption of the 1938 racial laws.

U.S. Citizen Claims

U.S. citizens were not subject to any special requirements.  UCEI stated it is unaware of any outstanding Holocaust era restitution claims from U.S. citizens.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future