Crowley, Smith, Deutch, and Lance Urge State Department to Take Additional Steps to Address Holocaust-era Property Restitution in Europe

Jul 2, 2015 Issues: Foreign Affairs, In the Community

Members Lead Bipartisan Letter Calling for Further Action, Express Strong Commitment of Congress to Supporting Holocaust Victims

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Reps. Joe Crowley (D-NY), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, Chris Smith (R-NJ), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) announced they led 42 bipartisan members in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing strong and ongoing support for the restitution of Jewish communal, private, and heirless property seized across Europe during the Holocaust. They also urged the State Department to continue efforts to address the issue swiftly and in collaboration with the legislative branch.

“Beyond the physical and emotional trauma they suffered 70 years ago, and the impact that trauma continues to have on their lives, many Holocaust survivors in the United States and around the world live in poverty while knowing the property that was stolen from them and their family remains in the hands of governments and private owners who have no rightful claim,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter.

The Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues in 2009, approved by 47 nations, affirms that "the protection of property rights is an essential component of a democratic society and the rule of law" and recognizes "the importance of restituting or compensating Holocaust-related confiscations made during the Holocaust era between 1933-45." The Declaration also underscores "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."

However, many nations that endorsed this declaration have not fully addressed the restitution of Jewish communal, private, and heirless property, including Croatia Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Serbia.

“The time is now for these governments to pass legislation that ensures a meaningful and expeditious opportunity for property claims to be filed and considered fairly and the property returned or compensated in a timely manner,” the lawmakers stated in the letter.

The letter, which was strongly supported by the World Jewish Restitution Organization, expresses the commitment of the Congress to work with the State Department to press these issues with European governments.

The letter can be found here.