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Immovable Private, Communal/Religious, and Heirless Property

The government and local NGOs are unaware of any Holocaust-related immovable property claims in Argentina.  According to a 2017 European Shoah Legacy Institute report, Argentina does not appear to be “a party to any treaties or agreements with other countries that address restitution and/or compensation for immovable property confiscated or wrongfully taken during the Holocaust.”  The country’s Secretariat for Worship specified that it does not have any records of restitution claims that Holocaust survivors pursued through the Government of Argentina; it noted that such cases would have to be handled through international agreements given the lack of relevant domestic legislation.  NGOs in Argentina are pivotal when it comes to assisting victims attempting to navigate such claims.

Fundación Tzedaká reported that although the Polish government in 2018 permitted claims on immovable property from overseas residents, to its knowledge no Argentine resident has made a claim.  The NGO suggested that most Jewish Argentines are of Polish descent, and the lack of claims by Argentine Jews could be related to the complicated restitution process in Poland.  Fundación Tzedaká has assisted clients in applying for monetary restitution from other governments, such as Germany, Romania, and Serbia.

Movable Property: Nazi-Confiscated and Looted Art

Most government and civil society sources voiced doubts that there was any Holocaust-related movable property in Argentina.  All agreed that some of the Nazis who came to Argentina after WWII used false names in an attempt to immigrate as refugees; therefore, they rarely arrived with large amounts of belongings.  Both Fundación Tzedaká and a law firm that had been involved in assisting Holocaust survivors with restitution claims stated that they have not processed claims for any movable property.

The existence of smuggled Nazi-looted and confiscated art in Argentina is possible, however, given that other items from the period have surfaced in recent years.  For example, the Argentine Federal Police confiscated what was thought to be the largest cache of Nazi memorabilia outside of Europe in a raid on a local antiques store in June 2017.  These objects are believed to have been either smuggled into Argentina by Nazi escapees or forged.  Through DAIA, the Jewish community became a party in the case against the antiques shop owner, asserting that their sale allegedly violated either the antidiscrimination law (if they were forgeries) or the patrimony law concerning import controls of cultural artifacts (if found to be genuine).  These pieces were donated to Argentina’s Holocaust museum.  This case suggests other items might have been smuggled out of Europe in the aftermath of the war, but to this day none have surfaced that involve Nazi-confiscated or looted art.  None of the items confiscated in June 2017 were reported to be property stolen from survivors.

Argentine museums do not do provenance research on their collections, and there have been difficulties researching the activities of Argentina’s art market during the Holocaust.  The Argentine Commission of Inquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina, created in 1997, concluded that no looted art was or is held by the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.  The Commission admitted that it had not checked any other state-run museum and that it faced difficulties researching the activities of Argentina’s art market during the Holocaust, particularly those of the Witcomb, Wildenstein, and Muller art galleries.

Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property

As with other movable property, sources neither in civil society nor in the government had any reports of restitution claims regarding Judaica or Jewish cultural property in Argentina.  Argentina received 5,053 books and 150 museum and synagogue pieces from Jewish Cultural Reconstruction after WWII.  So far as is known, no provenance research has been conducted on these holdings or on other Judaica that may have reached Argentina during or after the war.

Access to Archival Documents

In 1992, the government announced that it would open the archives related to Nazi arrivals in Argentina, extradition requests for Nazi war criminals, and laws that prevented Jewish immigration during the same period.  In 2017, the government initiated the digitalization of the archives for convenient access and further study.  It has shared copies of these digitized archives with DAIA and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and researchers can access the documents through these organizations.

The government created the Truth Commission for Nazi Activities in Argentina in 1997 to investigate Nazi immigration to Argentina and possible government acquiescence at the time.  A study published by the commission found 180 cases of confirmed Nazi war criminals who entered Argentina.  The government did not repeal a 1948 law barring Jewish immigration to Argentina until 2005.

Education, Remembrance, Research, and Memorial Sites

Argentina’s active civil society organizations take a multifaceted approach to Holocaust remembrance.  Concerning Holocaust primary source education, Argentina’s Museum of the Holocaust is at the forefront of compiling oral testimony from survivors.  Through the institution’s “Apprentice Project,” these survivors entrust their stories to new generations that in turn are expected to further disseminate them to their younger peers to keep the memory of the Shoah alive.  NGOs also remember the Holocaust in ceremonies they sponsor, sometimes with the Israeli embassy or connected to events commemorating the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA).

In 2006, Argentina became the only Latin American country to be a full member of IHRA.  In keeping with that membership, the government hosts a yearly Shoah memorial event on January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is organized on a rotating basis by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology; the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights; and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship.  The latter ministry hosted the 2018 event at the Shoah Memorial Plaza in Buenos Aires at which President Mauricio Macri became the first sitting president to attend as a speaker, along with the DAIA president and a Holocaust survivor.  Other provincial capitals hosted the event in prior years, illustrating a commitment to encourage all levels of government to participate in Holocaust remembrance.

Argentina also established a Permanent Advisory Council in 2002 that functions as the local chapter of the IHRA.  The presidency of this council rotates among the aforementioned three government ministries and includes the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism, as well as many civil society organizations.  Chief among these NGOs are DAIA, AMIA, B’nai B’rith Argentina, the Anne Frank Center (Centro Ana Frank), the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Plural Jai, the Holocaust Museum Foundation, the Center for Holocaust Studies, the Argentine Judeo-Christian Confraternity, and many more.  The Council convenes monthly to exchange information and discuss initiatives such as remembrance events, workshops, seminars, production of documentary material, and academic curricula.


Immovable Private, Communal/Religious, and Heirless Property

There are no reports of immovable property confiscated from Jews or other targeted groups during World War II by the Brazilian government.  After the war, Brazil was a member of the “Allied and Associated Powers” involved in the 1947 Treaty of Peace with Italy, which addressed the return of property in Italy to members of the United Nations (Article 78).  Brazil later entered into a lump sum settlement with Italy in 1958 relating to compensation for damage sustained by Brazilian citizens in Italy during World War II.

Movable Property: Nazi-Confiscated and Looted Art, Judaica, and Jewish Cultural Property

In 1973, Brazil signed the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970).  The Convention was incorporated into domestic law through decree 72.312, on May 31, 1973.  In 1998, Brazil signed the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.  In 1999, Brazil incorporated into its domestic law the 1995 Convention by the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) on Stolen or Illicit Exported Cultural Properties, complementing the legal apparatus from the UNESCO 1970 Convention.

The Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC) has been leading the effort to create a permanent commission on combating the illicit trafficking of cultural properties.  The institutions involved in this effort include the National Historic and Artistic Institute (IPHAN), the Brazilian Institute of Museums (IBRAM), the National Library, the Federal Police, the Revenue Services, the National Archives, the Ministry of External Relations (MRE), and the National Agency of Mining.  As of May 2018, the group had held five meetings.  The MEC, through a project with UNESCO in Brazil, is developing a study to subsidize the elaboration of a national policy to fight the illicit trafficking of cultural properties.

Since 1998, the Ministry of Education and Culture has maintained through IPHAN the Database on Wanted Cultural Properties (BCP) to register property that has been stolen or that is missing.  Once a cultural good enters BCP, IPHAN contacts the federal police, Interpol, and the national prosecutor’s office.  IPHAN is also responsible for the National Registry of Traders of Antiques and Works of Art.  That registry, created in 2007, was originally aimed at identifying goods with the potential for preservation; it now largely focuses on the prevention of money laundering and disseminating information about thefts.

The MEC also maintains a different online, public database to register missing properties from Brazilian museums, public and private alike, resulting from theft, robbery, or any other kind of disappearance.  The Registry of Disappeared Museum Properties was created in 2010.  Its goal is to make it possible to track, locate, and retrieve these properties.

Government, civil society, and Israeli embassy sources said there were likely individuals in Brazil with claims to movable property that was seized by the Nazis during WWII, but they did not provide specific cases.  Neither sources in civil society nor sources in the government had reports regarding Judaica and Jewish cultural property in Brazil being stolen or bought.

Access to Archival Documents

The University of Sao Paulo’s Laboratory of Studies on Ethnicity, Racism, and Discrimination maintains the Virtual Archives on Holocaust and anti-Semitism, a virtual archive of Holocaust materials available to the public online.  The archive’s researchers are dedicated to transcribing the testimonies of Holocaust survivors, refugees, and exiles of Nazi fascism recorded on video/audio and digitizing and identifying diplomatic documents from MRE, including photographs and passports donated by interviewees.  The archive launched in 2006 with funds from the Sao Paulo State Research Support Foundation in partnership with Yad Vashem in Israel.

Education, Remembrance, Research, and Memorial Sites

Brazilian officials often participate in International Holocaust Remembrance Day activities on January 27.  In 2017, former President Michel Temer attended an event in Sao Paulo organized by the Sao Paulo Israeli Congregation, the Israeli Confederation of Brazil, and the Israeli Federation of Sao Paulo.  In 2019, newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro was recovering from stab wounds sustained during the presidential election campaign but issued a video from his hospital.

There are several Jewish organizations in Brazil that focus on education, remembrance, research, and memorial site construction and preservation.  The synagogue in Recife organizes events throughout the year to remember the victims of the Holocaust.

Brazilian NGOs maintain three Holocaust memorials in Sao Paulo, Curitiba, and Rio de Janeiro.  Federação Israelita do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FIERJ) is a collection of schools, clubs, nursing homes, and hospitals that represent the Jewish community in the state of Rio de Janeiro.  In April 2020, they plan to celebrate the opening of a new Holocaust memorial that will include a museum.  They are raising funds for the memorial with the help of the Jewish community in Rio de Janeiro.  The Sociedade Israelita Brasileira de Cultura e Beneficencia (SIBRA) is planning to build a Jewish German Memorial and is seeking support to develop educational programs about this issue.  In Sao Paulo, Jewish authorities maintain three Jewish cemeteries in Embu das Artes, Vila Mariana, and Butanta.  Ten Yad (“Give a Hand”) holds an annual charity show at Anhembi in Sao Paulo.  In August 2019, the organization invited Holocaust survivor Saul Dreier, a 94-year-old musician who founded the Holocaust Survivor Band, to perform.

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

UNIBES is the primary provider of eldercare and health care services and claims payments to Holocaust survivors in Brazil.  It estimates that as many as 500 Holocaust survivors remain in Brazil, although the organization aids only 220 confirmed survivors, who primarily live in Sao Paulo (169) and Rio de Janeiro (37).

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), which negotiates with the German government for payments to Holocaust victims around the world, makes direct payments to survivors in Brazil.  In 2017, it facilitated the transfer of more than $2 million to fund social assistance programs in the country.  UNIBES is the primary entity working with the Claims Conference to provide a range of social services to Holocaust survivors, including assistance for food, medication, medical care, and housing.

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