Lithuania awards $52m. to Jews for lost assets (JERUSALEM POST) By GIL SHEFLER 04/05/12)
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After years of delays Lithuania officially passed a law on Wednesday
that will give the local Jewish community $52 million in return for
communal property lost or confiscated during and after World War II.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said the ratification of
the bill approved in principle last summer acknowledged the suffering
of the country’s Jewish community decimated during the Holocaust.
“These decisions are needed for all of us, needed for historic
justice, and by doing this we have made a huge step forward to
assuming our moral responsibility for history, sometimes difficult
and tragic history,” Kubilius was quoted as saying.
The vast majority of the country’s estimated 220,000 Jews were
murdered by the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators during World
Kubilius said the money will go towards supporting community centers,
schools and other projects catering to the country’s remaining 4,000
Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of International Jewish Affairs for the
American Jewish Committee, who was deeply involved in negotiations
with the Lithuanian government, said he “wholeheartedly commended”
the government for reaching its decision even though it was not the
deal he initially hoped for.
“There’s a good side and a bad side,” he said. “The law we wanted
would have resulted in a more substantial value being restituted or
paid but it would have been a longer process.”
Baker said the first of the payments spread over 10 years will be
used in part to compensate Holocaust survivors in the country.
But Efraim Zuroff, Israeli director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center,
was deeply critical of the deal, and accused the government of
intentionally ignoring the issue for years and paying nine times less
than the worth of Jewish assets lost.
“This is a very bad deal but at least it’s something,” he
said. “Unfortunately, the passage of the law was delayed for years
during which most of the survivors passed away.”
Zuroff excoriated Baker personally for his part in reaching the
agreement, saying the AJC official had been too accommodating towards
Baker responded to Zuroff’s accusations saying the agreement was the
best that could be brokered at this time given the complexity of
evaluating and returning Jewish property.
“This was not ideal,” he said, “but it’s easy to stand on the outside
and criticize and Mr. Zuroff has done that [for] many years.”
The $52 million in compensation is in return for destroyed community
assets like synagogues, schools and cemeteries. Private Jewish
property, however, remains unaddressed, Baker said.
“Those Jews living in Lithuania received something,” he said. “Some
claims of those living abroad have not been addressed.”
He said destroyed or appropriated private property was a more thorny
issue and that most countries in Eastern Europe have still not fully
solved it. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/05/12)
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