AJC Commends Lithuania Jewish Communal Property Compensation Bill
NEW YORK, June 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — AJC commends Lithuania’s adoption today of a law to provide compensation for Jewish communal property seized during the Holocaust.
“Thankfully, Lithuania’s Parliament, the Seimas, and Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, have finally brought a successful conclusion to this long-stalled legislation,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs.
Under the new law partial compensation will be offered for Jewish communal properties that were looted by the Nazis and nationalized by the Communists, and have remained in government hands since Lithuania declared independence in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The compensation payments, totaling approximately $54 million, will be paid over a period of ten years and should insure the long-term viability of Jewish community life in Lithuania, as well as support the restoration of important Jewish heritage sites. In addition, a portion of the funds will be directed to assist needy Holocaust survivors from Lithuania.
Rabbi Baker played a leading role in the eight years of intensive negotiations with three Lithuanian prime ministers. Delays, according to Baker, largely were due to concerns over domestic politics and nervousness about populist, anti-Semitic backlash.
When Andrius Kubilius took office in 2008, he promised to move restitution legislation. However, the global economic crisis led to a scaled-back proposal to pay compensation pegged at about 30 percent of actual value. “Even this was a hard fought victory,” Baker said.
Passage of the bill comes days before the visit to Vilnius of U.S. Secretary of State Clinton for the Community of Democracies Ministerial Meeting.
“The tireless advocacy of U.S. Ambassador Anne Derse, and her predecessors, deserves special appreciation,” said Rabbi Baker. “They have reinforced a strong bipartisan American policy to address unfinished Holocaust-era asset issues.”
SOURCE American Jewish Committee