News 25 Apr 17

Balkan States Rapped over Holocaust Property Restitution

Bosnia and Herzegovina has failed to comply with an international declaration on the restitution of property seized during WWII, while other Balkan countries have not honoured their commitments in full.

Sven Milekic
A destroyed synagogue in Berlin. Photo: Center for Jewish History, New York.

Some Balkan states have failed to implement legislation ensuring the restitution of the property taken from Holocaust victims, with Bosnia and Herzegovina completely failing to comply with the international declaration that it signed, said a report published on Monday.

The Holocaust (Shoah) Immovable Property Restitution Study names the countries which have failed to pass legislation to ensure compliance with the 2009 Terezin Declaration.

The declaration, signed by 46 states, sets out commitments to ensure the restitution of property taken during the Holocaust, and named after the site of a Nazi concentration camp in the Czech Republic.

But despite this, many Holocaust property-related issues remain unresolved in former Communist states, according to the report, which was compiled by the European Shoah Legacy Institute, a Prague-based organisation set up to monitor compliance with the Terezin Declaration.

The report says that some states have “substantially complied with the Terezin Declaration”, some of partially, but Bosnia and Herzegovina and Poland have not.

“Poland and Bosnia-Herzegovina stand alone as the only countries that have failed to establish a comprehensive private property restitution regime for property taken either during the Holocaust or Communist eras or one that addresses both types of takings,” the report says.

Bosnia and Montenegro are mentioned as the only states that have failed to “enact communal property restitution legislation covering either Holocaust-era confiscations or Communist-era takings”.

Of the Balkan countries, Croatia and Macedonia “limit eligible claimants to those who are citizens of their respective countries”.

Croatia’s restitution law includes only property seized during the socialist Yugoslavia and not Jewish, Serbian and Romani property taken by the Croatian WWII fascist Ustasa movement, the report adds.

The issue of heirless property is lacking appropriate legislation in a number of states, the report cautions.

Since in a number of states, Jewish communities and other persecuted groups were almost totally destroyed during WWII, a huge portion of their property was left without legal heirs, so the states themselves became the heirs.

The Terezin Declaration says that this property should be used to help Holocaust victims and for Holocaust education.

Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Montenegro have not enacted heirless property legislation, while Macedonia, Romania and Serbia have passed such laws, the report says.

However, the report notes that Romania’s law on heirless property was never fully implemented.

While the report says that Albania has not passed any laws regarding the restitution of heirless property, it emphasises that only one Albanian Jewish family was deported and killed during WWII.

Information about Kosovo is not included in the study.

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