May 2018 -- Iyar-Sivan 5778,  Volume 24, Issue 5

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Congress Unanimously Approves Law to Assist Holocaust Survivors

The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) applauds the United States Congress for unanimously passing The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act on April 24.

 

“This is a powerful statement of America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Holocaust survivors in their quest for justice,” said Gideon Taylor, WJRO Chair of Operations. “We thank the Senate and House, and particularly Senators Baldwin and Rubio and Representatives Crowley and Smith, for their heartfelt leadership on this issue.”

 

The JUST Act was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and in the House of Representatives by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). Once signed into law by President Trump, the bill will require the State Department to investigate and submit a report to Congress on the extent to which endorsees of the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues are meeting their pledges to adopt national laws and policies to help Holocaust survivors identify and reclaim their properties.

 

In 2009, 47 countries endorsed the Terezin Declaration, which recognizes “the importance of restituting or compensating Holocaust-related confiscations made during the Holocaust era between 1933-45.” It also states “the importance of recovering communal and religious immovable property in reviving and enhancing Jewish life, ensuring its future, assisting the welfare needs of Holocaust (Shoah) survivors, and fostering the preservation of Jewish cultural heritage.”

 

In response to the passage of the JUST Act, Irene Weiss, an Auschwitz survivor from the former Czechoslovakia who now lives in Virginia, described the meaning of the bill to her. “My family had property – a house, land and a lumber business – that was taken from us and for which we were never granted restitution or justice. I have memories of a wonderful childhood, which the Nazis and their collaborators shattered during World War II. The property owned by my family is the only connection I have to those memories and to my past.”