NEWS 15 Mar 17

‘Compensation Unlikely’ for Bosnian Jews’ Seized Property

The restitution of Jewish property seized in occupied Bosnia during WWII is too complex to implement, said the chairman of the country’s presidency, Mladen Ivanic.

Eleanor Rose
Mladen Ivanic in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Photo: Israel Council on Foreign Relations/Andres Lacko.

The chairman of the Bosnian tripartite presidency, Mladen Ivanic, said during a visit to Jerusalem on Tuesday that the Jewish community should not to expect property expropriated during the Holocaust in Bosnia to be given back or to be compensated for its seizure.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Ivanic pointed out that a restitution law had at one time been created in Bosnia, but fell by the wayside because the process would be too complicated.

He said that the seized properties were taken over by the Yugoslav Communists after the war, then privatised, while some of them have been demolished or replaced.

Ivanic, who was speaking to the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, insisted that he would restore the property or give compensation if he could, but that the matter was not in his hands, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The World Jewish Restitution Organisation, WJRO, says that about 82,000 Jews lived in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia before the World War II, when it was occupied by the Axis powers.

According to the scholar Noel Malcolm’s book Bosnia: A Short History, the Nazis – who arrived in Sarajevo in 1941 – liquidated 12,000 of Bosnia’s 14,000 Jews with the assistance of local groups.

Meanwhile, communal and private property was expropriated.

The Jewish community in Bosnia has agreed with the WJRO to form a foundation that would receive and manage any returned communal property or compensation.

Bosnia signed up to the Terezin Declaration in 2009, which affirms the “importance of restituting communal and individual immovable property that belonged to the victims of the Holocaust (Shoah) and other victims of Nazi persecution”.

However, little progress has been made.

Neighbouring Serbia passed legislation in 2006 and 2011 to address the restitution of property to religious communities and private individuals.

A further law, passed in 2016, specifically addresses compensating the Jewish community for property seized during and after the Holocaust that is now heirless.

Under the legislation, the Federation of Jewish Municipalities of Serbia will be given 950,000 euros per year for a period of 25 years, starting from 2017.

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