Private property seized during the Holocaust included farmland, forests, food processing plants, mills, distilleries, homes, apartments and buildings. Romania passed laws to reverse the confiscation of Jewish and Roma property soon after the fascist regime was deposed in August 1944. Legislation included Law No. 641/1944 (regarding the abolition of anti-Semitic measures) and Law No. 607/1945 (regarding the annulment of certain contracts that transferred property during exceptional circumstances). Since the country’s 1989 revolution, some claimants have pursued court cases to seek restitution of private property under Law 641/1944, which entitles Jews to seek restitution of certain properties confiscated during the Holocaust. There is no known statistical data covering restitution cases filed under Law 641/1944, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the courts have granted restitution or compensation in only a small percentage of these cases.
Claims by some foreign citizens relating to war damage and nationalization were settled through bilateral agreements with foreign governments (e.g., United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom). Restitution began to take place after the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, although post-Communist restitution laws effectively often excluded Holocaust-era confiscations. Laws enacted in the 1990s for private and communal property restitution sometimes overlapped or conflicted and were not well enforced.
In the last decade, Romania has passed several broad laws on private property restitution. Following a decision by the European Court of Human Rights, Romania passed Law No. 165/2013 to rectify systemic problems with its restitution program for private property confiscated by the Communist regime. In 2016, subsequent legislation prioritized the processing of private property claims made by Holocaust survivors and resolved technical issues that had been delaying the return of certain Jewish communal properties.
The 2016 legislation was adopted during the tenure of then-Prime Minister Cioloș. Proposals that could help unblock or expedite the processing of remaining private and communal property claims, as well as proposals to make the application for a pension program less burdensome to Holocaust survivors who no longer have Romanian citizenship, are under review in discussions with the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania and the WJRO.
During the Holocaust, the regime seized cemeteries, synagogues, schools, hospitals, and other types of Jewish communal or religious property. Under Romanian law, the Jewish community is entitled to receive compensation for buildings and land confiscated or nationalized between September 6, 1940, and December 22, 1989. The Caritatea Foundation has obtained restitution or compensation for 40 percent of the communal properties it identified. Lack of access to archival documents and the destruction of some archival collections limited the Foundation’s ability to file claims for all the identified communal properties before the 2006 deadline. Romania’s National Authority for Property Restitution reports a much higher percentage of successful claims (up to 90 percent).
Legislation passed in 2016 clarifies the Caritatea Foundation’s rights to 55 Jewish communal properties, such as schools and burial societies that were incorporated separately from properties owned by the country’s pre-Holocaust central Jewish communities. This 2016 legislation also resolved a technical issue that had delayed 40 of the Caritatea Foundation’s claims for properties that the Jewish communities were compelled to “donate” to the state during the Communist era.
Romanian law established a point system for compensation in private and communal property cases where restitution was not possible. Religious groups can use the points only to bid on other properties in auctions organized by the National Commission for Real Estate Compensation. The Commission validates compensation decisions of other local or central authorities, including those of the Special Restitution Commission within the National Authority for Property Restitution, which decides on restitution claims filed by religious denominations and national minorities. As is done with private property, these laws establish a 240-day period during which claimants must submit additional evidence in their cases when requested by the entity in charge of resolving their restitution claim. If a claimant cannot meet the deadline, the administrative authority may reject the case. The authority may extend the deadline by an additional 120 days if the claimant can prove he/she made a concerted effort to obtain the evidence (usually in the possession of other state authorities), although was unable to do so.
The 1947 Treaty of Paris requires Romania to return heirless and unclaimed property to the Jewish community. Romania enacted legislation in 1948 (Law No. 113) designed to implement the Treaty by transferring property belonging to victims of racial or religious persecution to organizations that would benefit remaining members of the community. According to a 2016 report by the European Shoah Legacy Institute, the law “was never fully or meaningfully implemented.”