Foreword

A Message From the Secretary of State

The Holocaust was one of the most horrific atrocities in world history. The Nazi regime murdered six million Jews – including one and a half million children – and millions of other individuals, motivated by its twisted ideology and ethnic hatred. The Holocaust was also one of the largest organized thefts in human history. The Nazi regime’ s confiscation, seizure, and wrongful transfer of the Jewish people’s property were designed not only to enrich the Nazi regime at the expense of European Jewry but also to permanently eliminate all aspects of Jewish cultural life.

As World War II ended in Europe, the United States led the effort to seek a measure of justice in the form of restitution or compensation for individuals whose assets were stolen during the Holocaust. The effort began while Allied troops were liberating Europe and continues to this day. In 2009, the United States and 46 other countries committed to rectify the consequences of these wrongful asset seizures and to promote the welfare of Holocaust survivors around the world by endorsing the Terezin Declaration.

I applaud the Congress for adopting with broad, bipartisan support the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act of 2017, P.L. 115-171, which was signed into law by President Trump in May 2018. The Act requires me to submit a report to Congress on countries’ progress in implementing the goals of the Terezin Declaration. The JUST Act Report is an essential tool to highlight the important actions countries have taken to provide restitution or compensation for property confiscated during the Holocaust or subsequently nationalized during the Communist era. It will also expose Terezin implementation gaps, detail the vital work which remains to be done, and serve as a model of best practices to fulfill commitments countries took upon themselves by endorsing the Terezin Declaration.

Much time has passed, and the need for action is urgent. As we mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust, the legacy of the Nazis’ mass looting remains in too many places and largely unaddressed. Given the advanced age of Holocaust survivors, many of whom live in poverty, the findings of this report serve as a reminder that countries must act with a greater sense of urgency to provide restitution or compensation for the property wrongfully seized from victims of the Holocaust and other victims of Nazi persecution. All victims of the Nazi regime should be able to live out their remaining days in dignity.

When President Trump signed a landmark executive order on combatting anti-Semitism in December 2019, he also stressed the importance of “strengthening restitution efforts,” which lie at the core of the Terezin Declaration. I am proud of the State Department’s ongoing efforts to encourage countries to meet the goals and commitments they undertook when they endorsed the Terezin Declaration and to provide a belated measure of justice to Holocaust survivors and their families and to Jewish communities destroyed by the Holocaust. As Secretary of State, I will continue to prioritize this effort.

Sincerely,
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo

Michael R. Pompeo,
Secretary of State of the United States of America


 

Executive Summary

Introduction

The Holocaust was one of the most horrific atrocities in world history, resulting in the genocide of six million Jews – including one and a half million children – and the targeted killing of millions of other Europeans by the Nazis and their collaborators for ethnic and political reasons.  The systematic Nazi attempt to exterminate Europe’s Jews is unconscionable, and the cruelty inflicted on millions in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and other camps and killing sites in the name of the anti-Semitic ideology of Aryan racial superiority will never be forgotten.

The Holocaust was also one of the greatest organized thefts in history, providing a source of revenue to the Third Reich and the Axis Powers while attempting to wipe out all vestiges of Jewish life and culture in Europe.  The efficiency, brutality, and scale of the looting remains unprecedented, encompassing businesses, land, residences, and cultural/religious properties such as synagogues, sacred religious items, cemeteries, schools, and community centers.  When one adds the estimated 600,000 looted paintings – some 100,000 of which are still missing – the scale of the theft becomes clear.

Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel put this shameful history into perspective at the June 2009 Prague Holocaust Era Assets Conference that produced the Terezin Declaration:

Just measure the added ugliness of their hideous crimes: they stole not only the wealth of the wealthy but also the poverty of the poor. . .Only later did I realize that what we so poorly call the Holocaust deals not only with political dictatorship, racist ideology and military conquest; but also with…financial gain, state-organized robbery. . .

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This report is submitted pursuant to section 2(b) of the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act (PL 115-171), signed into law by President Trump on May 9, 2018.  It reviews the national laws and enforceable policies of 46 of the 47 countries that endorsed the Terezin Declaration issued at the conclusion of the June 2009 Prague Holocaust Era Assets Conference.  (The United States endorsed the Declaration but is not covered in this report, as explained below.)  One of the conference’s primary goals was to enable the identification, return of, or restitution for assets wrongfully seized or transferred during the Holocaust era.  Section 1(a) of the JUST Act defines “wrongfully seized or transferred” as including confiscations, expropriations, nationalizations, forced sales or transfers, and sales or transfers under duress during the Holocaust era or the period of Communist rule of a covered country.

The Terezin Declaration emphasized the importance of private property restitution and/or compensation and called upon countries that had not yet done so to implement national programs to address immovable “real” property, including private, communal, and heirless, confiscated by Nazis, fascists, and their collaborators.  The 2009 Declaration, along with its 2010 companion guidelines and best practices, called for fair and comprehensive claims processes that do not discriminate based on citizenship or residency and that are “expeditious, simple, accessible, transparent, and neither burdensome nor costly to the individual claimant.”

At the request of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, U.S. embassies prepared the initial drafts of country chapters based on information from foreign government officials, community organizations, nongovernmental organizations, academics, and others.  The Office of the Special Envoy, based in Washington, DC, then collected and analyzed additional information and consulted to the extent possible with domestic and international restitution experts and organizations including academics, community leaders, and relevant U.S. government and nongovernmental institutions.

This assessment covers all major areas addressed in the Terezin Declaration.  Each of the 46 reports begins with a short historical overview of the country’s experience during the Holocaust to provide needed context.  Reports then briefly summarize and assess each country’s laws and enforceable policies related to the categories for return of or compensation for immovable and movable private, communal/religious, and heirless property.  The primary focus for most country reports is on Holocaust-era property; when possible, subsequent Communist-era nationalization of such property is also addressed.  Finally, each report provides a description of the country’s record on other Terezin Declaration commitments related to Holocaust remembrance, commemoration, access to archival documents necessary for the identification and restitution of property, and Holocaust education.  The country reports, listed in alphabetical order, vary in length and detail depending on the complexity of the situation and the information available, covering key developments through December 5, 2019.

The report reflects the importance the U.S. government places on finding a measure of justice for Holocaust victims, survivors, and their heirs and is intended to encourage reflection on best practices that might be employed to fulfill commitments countries took upon themselves by endorsing the Terezin Declaration.  We hope that Congress finds this report useful in determining how it can engage on unresolved issues that can directly benefit Holocaust survivors and their families, many of whom live in the United States.

Overall, the report is descriptive rather than prescriptive.  It provides an objective account of what countries that endorsed the Declaration have done to implement their commitments in the ensuing decade.  Indeed, while it provides indications that some countries have done better than others in living up to their commitments, it also underscores that all can do more to deliver a measure of justice nearly 75 years after the end of the Holocaust.

Although Congress did not mandate a review of U.S. laws and policies, the research sheds light on our nation’s own challenges in living up to its Terezin Declaration commitments.  In 2000, the United States played a crucial role, working with Sweden and other countries, in creating what later became the 34-member International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).  That leadership role highlights the United States’ responsibility to continue to educate the American public on the history and lessons of the Holocaust.  To wit, a survey conducted in 2018 by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (the Claims Conference) showed that 41 percent of American adults do not know what Auschwitz is; for those between the ages of 18 and 34, the figure is 66 percent.  Currently, only 12 U.S. states require Holocaust education at the secondary level.

After a promising start on provenance research, art restitution, and the creation of a portal to facilitate claims, American museums later began asserting affirmative defenses to block restitution of looted artwork, in contravention of the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art and the Terezin principles.  This led Congress in 2016 to enact the HEAR Act (Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act).  American museums also trail behind some of their European counterparts, such as Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, in conducting art provenance research.  One factor contributing to this difference is that most U.S. museums are not government-run (in contrast to most museums in Europe), and many of their directors have not made provenance research a priority.  The use of antiquated software in some cases also complicates the identification of potential Nazi-looted art by claimants.

These factors notwithstanding, the United States remains a recognized world leader on Holocaust-era restitution.  Strong U.S. government leadership and advocacy were decisive in the conclusion of many of the major restitution agreements to date.  These include, for example, agreements with Switzerland (dormant bank accounts), Germany (slave and forced labor, insurance, property), Austria (slave and forced labor, insurance, private property), France (bank accounts and deportations on the French railway), and restitution agreements and settlements in a number of Central and Eastern European countries.

In reviewing the positive steps that have been taken, as well as the deficiencies in compliance, nations may be encouraged to do more to meet their commitments under the Terezin Declaration.  This report offers a window into options and innovative approaches that can help guide all nations in fulfilling their share of responsibility in righting economic and other wrongs committed against European Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution during the Holocaust.

In 2009, the Terezin Declaration recognized the urgency of aiding needy Holocaust survivors.  Ten years later, the imperative to ensure that survivors can live their final days with dignity is greater than ever.  According to the Claims Conference, an estimated 415,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide were alive in 2018.  The estimated rates of poverty and near-poverty for Holocaust survivors range from 32 percent for the 174,000 who live in Israel; 35 percent for the nearly 80,000 who live in the United States; and nearly 90 percent for the estimated 56,000 Holocaust survivors who live in the states that were part of the former Soviet Union.

The appeal that Elie Wiesel made at the 2009 Prague Conference remains a call to action:

They suffered enough.  And enough people benefitted from their suffering.  Why not do everything possible, and draw from all available funds, to help them live their last years with a sense of security, in dignity and serenity?

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Key Findings of the JUST Act Report

United States citizens are directly impacted by the efforts of the countries covered in this report with respect to their Terezin Declaration commitments.  The United States is home to the second-largest population of Holocaust survivors in the world and to many heirs of Holocaust victims.

Nearly 75 years after the end of World War II (WWII), and 10 years after the Terezin Declaration, much work remains to be done to provide a modicum of economic justice to Holocaust survivors and heirs for property wrongfully confiscated by the Nazis and their collaborators or nationalized by the Communists in the period after World War II.

The report notes that a handful of the countries that endorsed the Terezin Declaration have yet to pass laws that facilitate the restitution of immovable property.  In countries that have adopted such legislation, too many claimants face discrimination based on citizenship and residency or are otherwise unable to benefit due to overly complicated administrative barriers.  The restitution story of each country, in terms of its historical experience and legislative track record, is unique.  Most countries in Western Europe were able to launch restitution measures almost immediately after WWII.  Countries in Eastern and Central Europe, however, had a much different experience.  As noted in a 2017 report by the European Shoah Legacy Institute:

[T]here was little time to create successful restitution schemes before Communist regimes came to power in each country and collectivized and nationalized private property.  As a consequence, for Eastern European countries, legislation of the 1990s and 2000s necessitated a more comprehensive approach – covering greater time periods and more property.  Often, Holocaust era confiscated property is specifically excluded from post-Communist restitution legislation.

Bureaucratic inertia has delayed the resolution of too many restitution claims; in the case of some countries, this inertia continues decades after submission of those claims.  Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, and Ukraine, for example, have yet to pass legislation that provides for the restitution of private real property.  Poland, which had the largest European Jewish community before the outbreak of World War II (approximately 3.3 million), also has not yet enacted comprehensive legislation on national property restitution or compensation covering Holocaust confiscations.  This makes Poland the only European Union member state with significant Holocaust-era property issues not to have done so.  In Romania, Holocaust-era private property legislation exists, but the claims process has been difficult for U.S. and foreign citizen survivors and, in practice, has made it nearly impossible for people outside the country to qualify.

Jewish communities throughout Europe continue to face challenges in recovering or receiving compensation for communal and religious properties confiscated, destroyed, or nationalized in the Holocaust or Communist eras.  In Croatia, for instance, restitution efforts for such properties have been complicated by the fact that many buildings were used for communal rather than religious purposes or were owned by a legal entity that was separate from the official Jewish community.  Most Holocaust survivors and heirs have not been able to file private property claims under Croatia’s restitution law because of citizenship restrictions and other procedural hurdles, and there is a general lack of political will to address the issue.  Bureaucracy, weak political will, and related issues have hindered resolution of Jewish communal property claims in many countries.  In Poland, for example, approximately half of the 5,500 Jewish communal property claims filed under a 1997 restitution law remain unresolved, and approximately half of the adjudicated claims were rejected.

Political resistance was one of the factors that caused the Latvian government in mid-2019 to withdraw draft legislation that would have provided minimal restitution for more than 200 communal properties identified by the country’s small remaining Jewish community.  In this and other cases, both political considerations and concerns about the financial costs associated with restitution have delayed action.  Political factors were also in play in Poland in 2017 and Croatia in 2011, with draft legislation or amendments put forward by governments and then withdrawn.  In some countries, efforts to secure fulfillment of Terezin Declaration commitments have been met with overtly anti-Semitic statements from political figures.

Over the last 75 years, the inability of many Jewish communities to regain ownership of the synagogues, schools, and community centers that once sustained religious and communal life has had far-reaching, negative effects, likely exacerbating the shrinking of Jewish communities in several European countries in the years after the devastation of the Holocaust.  The Terezin Declaration had foreseen this possibility when it highlighted “the importance of recovering communal and religious immovable property in reviving and enhancing Jewish life, ensuring its future, assisting the welfare needs of Holocaust (Shoah) survivors, and fostering the preservation of Jewish cultural heritage.”  As this report lays out, many countries continue to work toward the goals of the Terezin Declaration.  For example, although the government of Lithuania resolved its communal property responsibilities by enacting the 2011 “Good Will Compensation Law,” it has more work to do regarding private property restitution, especially with regard to American citizens and others who did not maintain their Lithuanian citizenship.  The foundation created by the 2011 law assists Lithuanian Holocaust survivors and supports the overall well-being of the country’s Jewish community.

In a key determination, the Terezin Declaration recognized that the vast majority of Holocaust victims died heirless, with entire families wiped out, and highlighted the potential for Holocaust-era property to provide a basis for addressing the material necessities for needy survivors and to ensure ongoing education about the causes and consequences of the Holocaust.  Participating countries in the 2009 Prague Conference considered that, given the unique circumstances of the Holocaust, it would be inappropriate for property rendered heirless by the extermination of Jews to revert to the state.  Unfortunately, restitution or compensation for immovable private property with no living heirs has moved more slowly than any other aspect of Holocaust-era restitution over the last 10 years.

One reason some countries have held back is concern about the magnitude of property left heirless by the Nazi extermination of Jews in their countries and the potential cost of a compensation settlement.  In that regard, individual reports show the variety of mechanisms countries have taken in partnership with local Jewish communities.  This includes in some cases settling for a fraction of the value of heirless and certain other remaining property and applying those funds toward endowments and foundations that assist needy survivors and reinvigorate the small Jewish communities left in their countries.  Many survivors and heirs of Holocaust victims are at pains to point out that restitution is more of a moral than a financial issue, related to securing a measure of justice for their loved ones.  For others, the goal is to obtain resources for survivors so that they may live out their lives in dignity.

In 2016, Serbia became the first, and thus far the only, country to enact legislation on heirless and unclaimed property following the 2009 Terezin Declaration.  Several other countries in Europe had earlier adopted legislation that either addresses or partially addresses heirless and unclaimed property from the Holocaust era.  These include Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Romania, and Slovakia.  Some of these countries have yet to put these laws into practice.  Nations which have yet to adopt heirless property legislation include Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, and Ukraine.  (It should be noted that countries not occupied by the Nazis or without significant heirless property issues have also not adopted specific legislation.)

In the realm of movable property, there is much left to do to identify looted art and facilitate a fair solution for its return to rightful owners or their heirs.  In most European countries, too many public and private art museums still do not conduct provenance research on their art collections, research that is essential to providing information about potential claims for Nazi-confiscated art.  A handful of countries have only recently begun working on the necessary legislation and mechanisms for restituting artwork, and many others have yet to do so.  France, which originally had been slow in doing provenance research, is now the only country where the effort to identify, return or compensate Nazi-confiscated artworks and cultural objects rests in the office of the head of government, the prime minister.  The country, however, has not revised the law that stipulates that artworks that have been incorporated into public collections cannot be removed from public museums, even if they were confiscated by the Nazis from private collections.  The Netherlands, which had done exemplary provenance research and restitution, recently adopted a “balancing test” that gives its museums the right to retain Nazi-confiscated artworks if their interests outweigh those of representatives of families from whom the Nazis confiscated the art.  Hungary has conducted some research on its holdings of major looted art but has not provided restitution, nor has it made its research public.

Russia, meanwhile, has essentially nationalized most art and cultural property taken by the Soviet Trophy Brigades, which sent valuables back to Russia from occupied territories (including Germany) in 1945.  Despite having enacted a law based upon the 1998 Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, Russia has done little to conduct provenance research or to restitute or compensate for art recovered at the end of WWII that had been confiscated by the Nazis from Jewish and non-Jewish victims.

There are also positive trends worth highlighting.  Five countries – Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom – have established dispute resolution panels to resolve art claims, as envisioned by the Washington Principles and the Terezin Declaration.  Moreover, in January 2019, the European Parliament passed legislation recognizing the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.  It urged the European Commission to support the cataloguing of all data on looted cultural goods and to establish principles for dealing with cultural property in future conflicts.

Based on a November 2018 Joint Declaration with the Expert Adviser to the State Department on Holocaust-Era Issues and the Department’s Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, Germany allocated significant funds to both public and private museums for provenance research and has informed its public museums that they cannot continue to obtain federal funds unless they participate in the claims process.  Germany also reaffirmed that the precepts it committed to in endorsing the Washington Principles and the Terezin Declaration apply to private museums and collections, as well as to public museums.

Another area examined in this report is the progress in identifying, cataloguing, and preserving Judaica that may be found in libraries, museums, and other repositories; their return to their original owners and other appropriate individuals and institutions; and in particular, the restoration of sacred scrolls and ceremonial objects to their original sacred use in synagogues.  Return of confiscated Judaica and Jewish cultural property has generally not received as much focus as confiscated and looted art.  In the case of certain countries, such as Belarus, progress in this area has stalled.  After World War II, the Soviet Trophy Brigades brought hundreds of thousands of books from France to Minsk that had been stolen by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg – a Nazi organization tasked with expropriating Jewish cultural property.  Most of these books, experts agree, are located in Minsk.

In addition, the report provides snapshots of progress made in meeting each country’s commitment to make relevant archives available to the public and researchers to the fullest extent possible and to provide for the return of archives that had been stolen or removed for safekeeping as a consequence of the Holocaust. Positive developments abound: an exception for Holocaust-related archives was helpfully included in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation; there is cooperation between New York’s YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and partners in Lithuania to preserve, digitize, and virtually reunite YIVO’s pre-war archival collections and to digitally reconstruct the historic Strashun Library of Vilna; and military archives will be made accessible through a new arrangement between Greece and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, expected in 2020.

Finally, progress in maintaining memorial sites and promoting historically accurate Holocaust remembrance, commemoration, research, and education – undertakings made even more vital by the aging of the survivor generation – are highlighted in the country reports. One positive development in this area worth noting was the release of new Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust, which were unanimously adopted by the members of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance on December 5, 2019. The recommendations are available at: https://www.ushmm.org/teach/fundamentals/guidelines-for-teaching-the-holocaust.

Acknowledgements

Sincere thanks are due to all who contributed to this report.  We particularly wish to acknowledge the research and tireless outreach carried out by U.S. embassy personnel in the covered countries to provide the initial elements of each report, the review of which was coordinated by the Department’s Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Cherrie Daniels and her professional staff.  A significant portion of the report’s historical material was drawn from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, while restitution-related research and expertise were drawn from studies conducted by the World Jewish Restitution Organization, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the European Shoah Legacy Institute, and others.  The Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues is deeply indebted to the Department’s Expert Advisor on Holocaust Issues, Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, whose support and wealth of knowledge on the subject were invaluable.


 

Appendix A: 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues

Upon the invitation of the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic we the representatives of 46 states listed below met this day, June 30, 2009 in Terezin, where thousands of European Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution died or were sent to death camps during World War II.  We participated in the Prague Holocaust Era Assets Conference organized by the Czech Republic and its partners in Prague and Terezin from 26-30 June 2009, discussed together with experts and non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives important issues such as Welfare of Holocaust (Shoah) Survivors and other Victims of Nazi Persecution, Immovable Property, Jewish Cemeteries and Burial Sites, Nazi- Confiscated and Looted Art, Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property, Archival Materials, and Education, Remembrance, Research and Memorial Sites. We join affirming in this

Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues

  • Aware that Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and other victims of Nazi persecution have reached an advanced age and that it is imperative to respect their personal dignity and to deal with their social welfare needs, as an issue of utmost urgency,
  • Having in mind the need to enshrine for the benefit of future generations and to remember forever the unique history and the legacy of the Holocaust (Shoah), which exterminated three fourths of European Jewry, including its premeditated nature as well as other Nazi crimes,
  • Noting the tangible achievements of the 1997 London Nazi Gold Conference, and the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, which addressed central issues relating to restitution and successfully set the stage for the significant advances of the next decade, as well as noting the January 2000 Stockholm Declaration, the October 2000 Vilnius Conference on Holocaust Era Looted Cultural Assets,
  • Recognizing that despite those achievements there remain substantial issues to be addressed, because only a part of the confiscated property has been recovered or compensated,
  • Taking note of the deliberations of the Working Groups and the Special Session on Social Welfare of Holocaust Survivors and their points of view and opinions which surveyed and addressed issues relating to the Social Welfare of Holocaust Survivors and other Victims of Nazi Persecution, Immovable Property, Nazi Confiscated Art, Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property, Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, which can be found on the weblink for the Prague Conference and will be published in the Conference Proceedings,
  • Keeping in mind the legally non-binding nature of this Declaration and moral responsibilities thereof, and without prejudice to applicable international law and obligations,
  1. Recognizing that Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and other victims of the Nazi regime and its collaborators suffered unprecedented physical and emotional trauma during their ordeal, the Participating States take note of the special social and medical needs of all survivors and strongly support both public and private efforts in their respective states to enable them to live in dignity with the necessary basic care that it implies.
  2. Noting the importance of restituting communal and individual immovable property that belonged to the victims of the Holocaust (Shoah) and other victims of Nazi persecution, the Participating States urge that every effort be made to rectify the consequences of wrongful property seizures, such as confiscations, forced sales and sales under duress of property, which were part of the persecution of these innocent people and groups, the vast majority of whom died heirless.
  3. Recognizing the progress that has been made in research, identification, and restitution of cultural property by governmental and non-governmental institutions in some states since the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets and the endorsement of the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, the Participating States affirm an urgent need to strengthen and sustain these efforts in order to ensure just and fair solutions regarding cultural property, including Judaica that was looted or displaced during or as a result of the Holocaust (Shoah).
  4. Taking into account the essential role of national governments, the Holocaust (Shoah) survivors’ organizations, and other specialized NGOs, the Participating States call for a coherent and more effective approach by States and the international community to ensure the fullest possible, relevant archival access with due respect to national legislation. We also encourage States and the international community to establish and support research and education programs about the Holocaust (Shoah) and other Nazi crimes, ceremonies of remembrance and commemoration, and the preservation of memorials in former concentration camps, cemeteries and mass graves, as well as of other sites of memory.
  5. Recognizing the rise of Anti-Semitism and Holocaust (Shoah) denial, the Participating States call on the international community to be stronger in monitoring and responding to such incidents and to develop measures to combat anti-Semitism.

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

Recognizing that Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and other victims of Nazi persecution, including those who experienced the horrors of the Holocaust (Shoah) as small and helpless children, suffered unprecedented physical and emotional trauma during their ordeal.

Mindful that scientific studies document that these experiences frequently result in heightened damage to health, particularly in old age, we place great priority on dealing with their social welfare needs in their lifetimes. It is unacceptable that those who suffered so greatly during the earlier part of their lives should live under impoverished circumstances at the end.

  1. We take note of the fact that Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and other victims of Nazi persecution have today reached an advanced age and that they have special medical and health needs, and we therefore support, as a high priority, efforts to address in their respective states the social welfare needs of the most vulnerable elderly victims of Nazi persecution – such as hunger relief, medicine and homecare as required, as well as measures that will encourage intergenerational contact and allow them to overcome their social isolation. These steps will enable them to live in dignity in the years to come. We strongly encourage cooperation on these issues.
  2. We further take note that several states have used a variety of creative mechanisms to provide assistance to needy Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and other victims of Nazi persecution, including special pensions; social security benefits to non-residents; special funds; and the use of assets from heirless property. We encourage states to consider these and other alternative national actions, and we further encourage them to find ways to address survivors’ needs.

Immovable (Real) Property

Noting that the protection of property rights is an essential component of a democratic society and the rule of law,

Acknowledging the immeasurable damage sustained by individuals and Jewish communities as a result of wrongful property seizures during the Holocaust (Shoah),

Recognizing the importance of restituting or compensating Holocaust-related confiscations made during the Holocaust era between 1933-45 and as its immediate consequence,

Noting the importance of recovering communal and religious immovable property in reviving and enhancing Jewish life, ensuring its future, assisting the welfare needs of Holocaust (Shoah) survivors, and fostering the preservation of Jewish cultural heritage,

  1. We urge, where it has not yet been effectively achieved, to make every effort to provide for the restitution of former Jewish communal and religious property by either in rem restitution or compensation, as may be appropriate; and
  2. We consider it important, where it has not yet been effectively achieved, to address the private property claims of Holocaust (Shoah) victims concerning immovable (real) property of former owners, heirs or successors, by either in rem restitution or compensation, as may be appropriate, in a fair, comprehensive and nondiscriminatory manner consistent with relevant national law and regulations, as well as international agreements. The process of such restitution or compensation should be expeditious, simple, accessible, transparent, and neither burdensome nor costly to the individual claimant; and we note other positive legislation in this area.
  3. We note that in some states heirless property could serve as a basis for addressing the material necessities of needy Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and to ensure ongoing education about the Holocaust (Shoah), its causes and consequences.
  4. We recommend, where it has not been done, that states participating in the Prague Conference consider implementing national programs to address immovable (real) property confiscated by Nazis, Fascists and their collaborators. If and when established by the Czech Government, the European Shoah Legacy Institute in Terezin shall facilitate an intergovernmental effort to develop non-binding guidelines and best practices for restitution and compensation of wrongfully seized immovable property to be issued by the one-year anniversary of the Prague Conference, and no later than June 30, 2010, with due regard for relevant national laws and regulations as well as international agreements, and noting other positive legislation in this area.

Jewish Cemeteries and Burial Sites

Recognizing that the mass destruction perpetrated during the Holocaust (Shoah) put an end to centuries of Jewish life and included the extermination of thousands of Jewish communities in much of Europe, leaving the graves and cemeteries of generations of Jewish families and communities unattended, and

Aware that the genocide of the Jewish people left the human remains of hundreds of thousands of murdered Jewish victims in unmarked mass graves scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe,

We urge governmental authorities and municipalities as well as civil society and competent institutions to ensure that these mass graves are identified and protected and that the Jewish cemeteries are demarcated, preserved and kept free from desecration, and where appropriate under national legislation could consider declaring these as national monuments.

Nazi-Confiscated and Looted Art

Recognizing that art and cultural property of victims of the Holocaust (Shoah) and other victims of Nazi persecution was confiscated, sequestered and spoliated, by the Nazis, the Fascists and their collaborators through various means including theft, coercion and confiscation, and on grounds of relinquishment as well as forced sales and sales under duress, during the Holocaust era between 1933-45 and as an immediate consequence, and

Recalling the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art as endorsed at the Washington Conference of 1998, which enumerated a set of voluntary commitments for governments that were based upon the moral principle that art and cultural property confiscated by the Nazis from Holocaust (Shoah) victims should be returned to them or their heirs, in a manner consistent with national laws and regulations as well as international obligations, in order to achieve just and fair solutions,

  1. We reaffirm our support of the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art and we encourage all parties including public and private institutions and individuals to apply them as well,
  2. In particular, recognizing that restitution cannot be accomplished without knowledge of potentially looted art and cultural property, we stress the importance for all stakeholders to continue and support intensified systematic provenance research, with due regard to legislation, in both public and private archives, and where relevant to make the results of this research, including ongoing updates, available via the internet, with due regard to privacy rules and regulations. Where it has not already been done, we also recommend the establishment of mechanisms to assist claimants and others in their efforts,
  3. Keeping in mind the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, and considering the experience acquired since the Washington Conference, we urge all stakeholders to ensure that their legal systems or alternative processes, while taking into account the different legal traditions, facilitate just and fair solutions with regard to Nazi-confiscated and looted art, and to make certain that claims to recover such art are resolved expeditiously and based on the facts and merits of the claims and all the relevant documents submitted by all parties. Governments should consider all relevant issues when applying various legal provisions that may impede the restitution of art and cultural property, in order to achieve just and fair solutions, as well as alternative dispute resolution, where appropriate under law.

Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property

Recognizing that the Holocaust (Shoah) also resulted in the wholesale looting of Judaica and Jewish cultural property including sacred scrolls, synagogue and ceremonial objects as well as the libraries, manuscripts, archives and records of Jewish communities, and

Aware that the murder of six million Jews, including entire communities, during the Holocaust (Shoah) meant that much of this historical patrimony could not be reclaimed after World War II, and

Recognizing the urgent need to identify ways to achieve a just and fair solution to the issue of Judaica and Jewish cultural property, where original owners, or heirs of former original Jewish owners, individuals or legal persons cannot be identified, while acknowledging there is no universal model,

  1. We encourage and support efforts to identify and catalogue these items which may be found in archives, libraries, museums and other government and non-government repositories, to return them to their original rightful owners and other appropriate individuals or institutions according to national law, and to consider a voluntary international registration of Torah scrolls and other Judaica objects where appropriate, and
  2. We encourage measures that will ensure their protection, will make appropriate materials available to scholars, and where appropriate and possible in terms of conservation, will restore sacred scrolls and ceremonial objects currently in government hands to synagogue use, where needed, and will facilitate the circulation and display of such Judaica internationally by adequate and agreed upon solutions.

Archival Materials

Whereas access to archival documents for both claimants and scholars is an essential element for resolving questions of the ownership of Holocaust-era assets and for advancing education and research on the Holocaust (Shoah) and other Nazi crimes,

Acknowledging in particular that more and more archives have become accessible to researchers and the general public, as witnessed by the Agreement reached on the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany,

Welcoming the return of archives to the states from whose territory they were removed during or as an immediate consequence of the Holocaust (Shoah),

We encourage governments and other bodies that maintain or oversee relevant archives to make them available to the fullest extent possible to the public and researchers in accordance with the guidelines of the International Council on Archives, with due regard to national legislation, including provisions on privacy and data protection, while also taking into account the special circumstances created by the Holocaust era and the needs of the survivors and their families, especially in cases concerning documents that have their origin in Nazi rules and laws.

Education, Remembrance, Research and Memorial Sites

Acknowledging the importance of education and remembrance about the Holocaust (Shoah) and other Nazi crimes as an eternal lesson for all humanity,

Recognizing the preeminence of the Stockholm Declaration on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research of January 2000,

Recognizing that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted in significant part in the realization of the horrors that took place during the Holocaust, and further recognizing the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,

Recalling the action of the United Nations and of other international and national bodies in establishing an annual day of Holocaust remembrance,

Saluting the work of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF) as it marks its tenth anniversary, and encouraging the States participating in the Prague Conference to cooperate closely with the Task Force, and

Repudiating any denial of the Holocaust (Shoah) and combating its trivialization or diminishment, while encouraging public opinion leaders to stand up against such denial, trivialization or diminishment,

  1. We strongly encourage all states to support or establish regular, annual ceremonies of remembrance and commemoration, and to preserve memorials and other sites of memory and martyrdom. We consider it important to include all individuals and all nations who were victims of the Nazi regime in a worthy commemoration of their respective fates,
  2. We encourage all states as a matter of priority to include education about the Holocaust (Shoah) and other Nazi crimes in the curriculum of their public education systems and to provide funding for the training of teachers and the development or procurement of the resources and materials required for such education.
  3. Believing strongly that international human rights law reflects important lessons from history, and that the understanding of human rights is essential for confronting and preventing all forms of racial, religious or ethnic discrimination, including Anti-Semitism, and Anti-Romani sentiment, today we are committed to including human rights education into the curricula of our educational systems. States may wish to consider using a variety of additional means to support such education, including heirless property where appropriate.
  4. As the era is approaching when eye witnesses of the Holocaust (Shoah) will no longer be with us and when the sites of former Nazi concentration and extermination camps, will be the most important and undeniable evidence of the tragedy of the Holocaust (Shoah), the significance and integrity of these sites including all their movable and immovable remnants, will constitute a fundamental value regarding all the actions concerning these sites, and will become especially important for our civilization including, in particular, the education of future generations. We, therefore, appeal for broad support of all conservation efforts in order to save those remnants as the testimony of the crimes committed there to the memory and warning for the generations to come and where appropriate to consider declaring these as national monuments under national legislation.

Future Action

Further to these ends we welcome and are grateful for the Czech Government´s initiative to establish the European Shoah Legacy Institute in Terezin (Terezin Institute) to follow up on the work of the Prague Conference and the Terezin Declaration. The Institute will serve as a voluntary forum for countries, organisations representing Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and other Nazi victims, and NGOs to note and promote developments in the areas covered by the Conference and this Declaration, and to develop and share best practices and guidelines in these areas and as indicated in paragraph four of Immovable (Real) Property. It will operate within the network of other national, European and international institutions, ensuring that duplicative efforts are avoided, for example, duplication of the activities of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF).

Following the conference proceedings and the Terezin Declaration, the European Commission and the Czech Presidency have noted the importance of the Institute as one of the instruments in the fight against racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Europe and the rest of the world, and have called for other countries and institutions to support and cooperate with this Institute.

To facilitate the dissemination of information, the Institute will publish regular reports on activities related to the Terezin Declaration. The Institute will develop websites to facilitate sharing of information, particularly in the fields of art provenance, immovable property, social welfare needs of survivors, Judaica, and Holocaust education. As a useful service for all users, the Institute will maintain and post lists of websites that Participating States, organizations representing Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and other Nazi victims and NGOs sponsor as well as a website of websites on Holocaust issues.

We also urge the States participating in the Prague Conference to promote and disseminate the principles in the Terezin Declaration, and encourage those states that are members of agencies, organizations and other entities which address educational, cultural and social issues around the world, to help disseminate information about resolutions and principles dealing with the areas covered by the Terezin Declaration.

A more complete description of the Czech Government´s concept for the Terezin Institute and the Joint Declaration of the European Commission and the Czech EU Presidency can be found on the website for the Prague Conference and will be published in the conference proceedings.

List of States

1. Albania
2. Argentina
3. Australia
4. Austria
5. Belarus
6. Belgium
7. Bosnia and Herzegovina
8. Brazil
9. Bulgaria
10. Canada
11. Croatia
12. Cyprus
13. Czech Republic
14. Denmark
15. Estonia
16. Finland
17. France
18. FYROM
19. Germany
20. Greece
21. Hungary
22. Ireland
23. Israel
24. Italy
25. Latvia
26. Lithuania
27. Luxembourg
28. Malta
29. Moldova
30. Montenegro
31. The Netherlands
32. Norway
33. Poland
34. Portugal
35. Romania
36. Russia
37. Slovakia
38. Slovenia
39. Spain
40. Sweden
41. Switzerland
42. Turkey
43. Ukraine
44. United Kingdom
45. United States
46. Uruguay
The Holy See (observer)
Serbia (observer) *

Editor’s note:  The Department of State notes that Serbia attended the Conference as an observer but later endorsed the Terezin Declaration.  For this reason, Serbia is included in the Department’s JUST Act Report. 


 

Appendix B: Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act

Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act of 2017

 


 

Disclaimer

The Department of State does not espouse individual Holocaust-era property claims; rather, it serves as an advocate to foreign governments for comprehensive private property laws or mechanisms that would apply fairly and equitably to all whose property was confiscated during the Holocaust era or subsequently nationalized during the Communist era.

The Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act Report to Congress is intended to identify both best practices and remaining gaps in how countries that endorsed the non-binding 2009 Terezin Declaration have implemented their commitments, particularly on property restitution.  The Department has sought to present information as objectively, thoroughly, and fairly as possible. To that end, the report relied on multiple sources to reduce potential for bias.

Additional information pertinent to Holocaust-era property restitution is available here.

For questions about the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act Report, please email: JUSTActReport@state.gov

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