During the war, the Norwegian government-in-exile in London issued a provisional “Decree Concerning the Invalidity of Legal Transactions Connected with the Occupation,” which guaranteed restitution for, among other things, private and communal property confiscated by the Nazi occupation government. After the war, the government established institutions to facilitate the return of property. Jews who returned to Norway after the war (including most of the estimated 28 people who survived the concentration camps) saw the quick restoration of their real property.
On the other hand, the immediate post-war system of restitution failed to provide adequate compensation for personal property, commercial interests, or other losses. This deficiency was partly due to faulty calculations for lost commercial interests and personal property that were based on a formula that severely undervalued the actual loss. At times, authorities also refused to acknowledge that Holocaust victims were legally dead, citing the absence of death certificates. As a result of these and other administrative burdens, restitution claims took an average of eight to 10 years to resolve, with the last one resolved in 1987. Oftentimes, the costs imposed by the courts, tax authorities, or restitution agencies exceeded the value of the estate or the compensation provided.
In 1996, the government created the “Skarpnes Committee” to investigate the lack of compensation for lost property owed to Holocaust victims or their heirs. Unable to reach a consensus, the Skarpnes Committee released two reports. The majority report focused primarily on an accurate accounting of assets lost during the war and recommended a compensation scheme for survivors or their heirs based on this accounting. The minority report, authored by committee members representing Norway’s Jewish community and entitled the “Riesel/Bruland Report of the Confiscation of Jewish Property in Norway,” emphasized instead the unique status of Norwegian Jews as a population targeted for genocide and addressed in more depth the intended and actual consequences of an inadequate post-war restitution process. The minority report also included an alternative accounting of confiscated property, asserting, for instance, that 35.3 percent of claimants did not receive any restitution, 55.5 percent received less than 1,000 Norwegian Krone (about $200 at the time), and 163 ended up in debt to the reparation agencies. The minority report recommended a broader compensation scheme, to include both individual and communal compensation, to resolve this injustice.
The Ministry of Justice accepted the minority report and used it as the basis for the June 26, 1998, White Paper No. 82 to the Storting (Parliament), named “The Historical and Moral Settlement for the Treatment in Norway of the Liquidation of the Jewish Minority During World War II.” The government acknowledged the grave injustice done to the Jewish people of Norway. The White Paper proposed a comprehensive settlement that, among other things, provided for individual financial compensation, as well as compensation for the Jewish community that would go toward the commemoration, reconstruction, and development of Jewish culture and institutions both inside and outside of Norway.
On March 11, 1999, Norway’s parliament voted to accept the recommendations of White Paper 82, implement the Settlement contained therein, and pay 450 million Krone in compensation (worth about $58 million at the exchange rates prevailing in 2000, the year when the bulk of the funds were allocated). The compensation was divided into two parts, for individual and collective claims. Under the Settlement, survivors or their heirs were able to claim up to 200,000 Krone ($26,000) each for lost movable and immovable property. The collective portion of the Settlement, totaling 250 million Krone ($32 million), was further divided into three funds to satisfy all communal property and heirless property claims and provide a form of collective economic compensation for the injustice suffered by the Jewish community: 150 million Krone ($19 million) to sustain the Jewish community in Norway; 60 million Krone ($7.5 million) to establish a foundation to support “the traditions and culture which the Nazis wished to exterminate” outside of Norway; and 40 million Krone ($5 million) for the formation of a national museum for tolerance, which was ultimately established in 2001 as the Holocaust Center. The Settlement also imposed a deadline of November 1, 1999, to file claims for Holocaust-based restitution. A total of 987 claims were submitted by the November deadline, and all but 40 were approved and fully resolved in favor of the claimant. As of mid‑2019, the Jewish community – as represented by the Mosaic Community – regards all claims as having been successfully resolved and assesses that the government has satisfied the terms of the Settlement. The Department is not aware of any outstanding Holocaust-era immovable property claims by U.S. citizens.
Under the Settlement, 150 million Krone (approximately $19 million) was provided to the Mosaic Community to ensure the preservation of the Jewish community and culture in Norway, to repay debts incurred for the restoration of communal property confiscated during the Nazi occupation, and to support the operation and development of organizations to solidify the future of the Jewish community. These funds were used in part to preserve, maintain, and operate the Oslo Synagogue and the Trondheim Synagogue, as well as Jewish museums and cultural centers in Oslo and Trondheim. The funds facilitated the preservation and maintenance of Jewish cemeteries in Oslo, Trondheim, and Bergen. Funds from the Settlement also supported the partial restoration of an Oslo synagogue confiscated in 1942 during the Nazi occupation and converted into a commercial space; it is now the home of the Oslo Jewish Museum. Although not part of the Settlement, the government has provided additional funding and in-kind resources since 2006 to ensure the physical security of the Oslo Synagogue and all visitors and worshippers who visit it.