07.14.15

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Provision on Holocaust Restitution Clears Senate Hurdle

Amendment to spending bill will boost America’s efforts to assist Holocaust victims, their families and heirs with property restitution

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has successfully included an amendment in the FY16 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations bill that would boost U.S. efforts to assist Holocaust victims, their families, and heirs in achieving property restitution, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. The spending bill passed through the committee by a vote of 27-3 and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

“It is tragically unacceptable that seven decades after the end of the Holocaust, the restitution of formerly Jewish communal, private, and heirless property remains an outstanding issue,” said Senator Baldwin. “I was proud to see this amendment clear a hurdle in the Senate and come one step closer to helping provide justice to Holocaust victims and their families.”

“We applaud Senator Baldwin’s leadership and continued support in Congress for the return of Nazi-looted property across Central and Eastern Europe,” said Gideon Taylor, World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) Chair of Operations.

The unprecedented looting of Jewish assets was a central aspect of the Holocaust, and most formerly Jewish-owned, real properties confiscated by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust have not been returned, nor has compensation been provided to the rightful owners or their heirs.

Senator Baldwin's amendment requires the State Department's annual report on International Religious Freedom to include an assessment of the progress of foreign countries regarding the return of, or restitution for, wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets and compliance with the objectives of the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, an international agreement endorsed by 47 nations.

The new reporting requirement would help ensure that WWII-era property restitution remains a key U.S. foreign policy priority by improving the quantity and quality of country-specific information, particularly in the context of progress on Terezin commitments, and consequently increase the likelihood of asset return or restitution for Holocaust survivors and families, including U.S. citizens.

Text of Senator Baldwin’s amendment:

Holocaust Era Assets.

The Committee directs the Secretary of State, with the assistance of the Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, to include within the first Annual Report on International Religious Freedom submitted not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of the act an assessment of national laws or enforceable policies in, as appropriate,  foreign countries regarding the return of or restitution for wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust era assets and compliance with the objectives of the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, to include: the return to the rightful owner of any property that was wrongfully confiscated or transferred to another individual by Nazi, Nazi collaborator, or Communist regimes (if return of such property is no longer possible, the provision of comparable substitute property or the payment of equitable compensation); the return to Jewish communities of any religious or communal property that was stolen as a result of the Holocaust or subsequently nationalized by Communist regimes; the use of the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, agreed to December 3, 1998, in settling all claims involving publically and privately held movable property; the mechanism for and demonstrable progress on the resolution of claims for United States citizen Holocaust survivors and United States citizen family members of Holocaust victims; and recommendations for actions to be taken by the country, and the United States Government, to improve country progress on the return of or restitution for wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust era assets.