Lithuanian Parliament Adopts Measure to Compensate for Seizure of Jewish Property



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The Seimas the Parliament of Lithuania, on 21 June 2011, adopted a measure
to pay compensation for Jewish property that was seized by the Nazis in
World War II and retained by the Lithuanian State under Communist rule, it
was reported by the Associated Press the same day. The measure provides for
payment of 128 million Litas ($53 Million) over a period of 11 years (from
2013 to 2023) into a special fund for social , cultural, educational and
other projects for Lithuanian Jews currently numbering about 5000, or less
than 2 1/2 % of the pre-World War II Jewish population. The vote was 87 to 7, with 47 members abstaining or absent. The US State Department welcomed the action and a spokesperson called it "an important step towards historical justice and reconciliation". She noted that other efforts are also being taken to address the difficult era of the past.

Jewish organizations in Lithuania and abroad have yet to react to the
final legislation which has not yet been signed by the President. These
organizantions had expressed reservations about the measure in its earlier
stages. Two years ago in June 2009, the European Jewish Press (EJP) noted
that the debate about compensation had dragged on since Lithuania parted
from the Soviet Union in 1990. Synagogues had been returned to the Jewish
Community several years previously, but there had been no blanket deal for
dozens of other seized buldings including former schools.

The proposal as it was drafted in 2009, was for 113 million Litas ($46
million), about one-third of the value of the seized property, to be paid
out over the period from 2011 to 2021. The Lithuanian Jewish Community, at
that time, said the role of the fund was unclear and complained that
compenstion was being offered for expropriated property and not for the
return of buildings. In March 2009 according to RIA Novasti ( a Russian
publication), Simonas Gurevichius, exeutive director of the Jewish Community
of Lithuania questioned the method of property assessment and was quoted as
saying, "We will look and compare if everything has been done in the same
manner as during the assessment of the property of other faiths." In July
2009 he was quoted as saying "Jewish communal property has to be returned
just like this was done with property of other communities, including the
Catholic Church". He called the plan, at that time, "insufficient and
unacceptable". In response, the Lituanian Justice Minister said, "It is very
hard, if not impossible to restore property rights after more than half a
century, a war and two occupations", according to the Associated Press.

It should be noted that for a number of years, Howard Margol, Immediate Past
President of LitvakSIG, and his wife Esther have sponsored and helped to
support the American Fund for Lithuanian - Latvian Jews Inc., a non-profit
organization which, among other things, provides resources for the welfare
of the less fortunate members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, especially in Vilnius.

Shabbat Shalom,
Bill Yoffee
Panevezys District Research Coordinator
kidsbks@xxxxxxxxxxx
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