New US law helps Holocaust survivors secure restitution, seize stolen assets

The bipartisan JUST Act will assist in the return of, or restitution for, assets stolen in the Holocaust.

By: World Israel News Staff

The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act, which seeks to facilitate restitution for assets stolen in the Holocaust, received unanimous support from Congress on Tuesday.

Having passed both houses of Congress, the bipartisan legislation now heads to the President’s desk.

The law is designed to assist Holocaust survivors and victims’ families by requiring the State Department to report on European countries’ progress in the return of—or restitution for—wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets.

Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), who lead the initiative in the Senate, lauded congressional passage of act.

“I applaud the House today for supporting this bipartisan effort to take a critical step toward justice, at long last, for Holocaust survivors and the families of Holocaust victims,” said Baldwin. “These individuals have waited far too long to recover, or receive compensation for, what is rightfully theirs, and by highlighting this issue as an American foreign policy priority, we will spur action in countries that are falling short of their obligations. I look forward to seeing this bipartisan legislation signed into law by the president as soon as possible.”

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“The House’s passage of the JUST Act is one more step toward ensuring justice for Holocaust survivors and the families of Holocaust victims,” said Rubio. “By enhancing ongoing efforts between the State Department and European countries, this bill will help facilitate long deserved restitution to survivors and their families whose property was stolen during the Holocaust. I applaud today’s action by the House, and I look forward to seeing the JUST Act signed into law soon.”

“This is a powerful statement of America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Holocaust survivors in their quest for justice,” said Gideon Taylor, World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) Chair of Operations. WJRO is the global umbrella body that advocates on behalf of the Jewish community for the restitution of property confiscated during the Holocaust and its aftermath.

It’s about justice

“It is not about the money, it is about the justice of having the right to receive back what was once owned by your family and forcibly taken from you without justification,” said Howard Melton, a Holocaust survivor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“We survivors cannot afford to wait any longer for justice 70 years after the Nazis took everything from us,” said Nate Taffel, a Holocaust survivor in Milwaukee.

“Our families, who were slaughtered during the war, left it to us. We have waited too long for justice for our property,” said Norman Trysk-Frajman, a Holocaust survivor living in Boynton Beach, Florida. Norman hopes that the JUST Act will bring him and his cousins closer to receiving justice for the theft of his family’s property by the Nazis. He also expressed his thanks to Senator Rubio for introducing the JUST Act as well as supporting it until through passage.

“[The JUST Act] brings us closer to receiving a measure of justice that we greatly deserve,” said Alisa Sorkin, a Holocaust survivor living in Florida.

“Justice has not been afforded to me for the theft of the property owned by my family in Poland. The apartment building that was owned by my parents and in which I lived as a child is still there, yet someone else has title to it and I never received the proper compensation for such a transfer of ownership. That building and the factory behind it are my only direct connections to my past. I am thankful for the JUST Act and, through this legislation, helping Holocaust survivors achieve a small measure of justice for our material loss,” said Lea Evron, a Holocaust survivor living in New York.

The JUST Act will build on the international Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues of 2009, which affirms that the protection of property rights is an essential component of a democratic society based on the rule of law and recognizes the importance of correcting the wrongs associated with Holocaust-related confiscations.

The Nazi regime and its collaborators systematically stole property from Jews. More than seven decades after the Holocaust ended, many survivors and their heirs continue to wait for their property to be returned or to receive compensation for it.

According to Jewish claimants and advocates, a more comprehensive accounting of countries’ records on these issues is needed to help incentivize progress by foreign governments.

The JUST Act requires the State Department to report on various nations’ compliance with the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets, as well as their actions to resolve the claims of US citizens.