WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joined with three others in Congress to introduce legislation designed to help track Holocaust assets for survivors and their families.
Baldwin introduced the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act in concert with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. representatives Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Chris Smith (R-NJ). The legislation is intended to improve efforts assisting Holocaust survivors and the families of Holocaust victims by requiring the State Department to report on the progress of certain European countries on the return of — or restitution for — wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets.
“We’re taking bipartisan action to ensure justice, which has been put off for far too long,” said Senator Baldwin. “Tragically, we are losing survivors every day, and it is my sincere hope that this legislation, by shining a spotlight and solidifying this issue as an American foreign policy priority, will spur action in countries that are falling short of their obligations, ultimately resulting in a measure of justice for these individuals who have waited far too long.”
In addition to senators Baldwin and Rubio, who are lead sponsors according to a spokesman for Baldwin, the JUST Act is cosponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and several others.
Seventy years after the Holocaust, in which the unprecedented looting of Jewish assets was a central aspect, the restitution of Jewish communal, private and heirless property in Central and Eastern Europe remains unresolved, according to a Baldwin senate office news release. Indeed, decades after the Holocaust and the fall of communism, most formerly Jewish-owned, real properties confiscated by the Nazis and their collaborators have not been returned, nor has compensation been provided to the rightful owners or their heirs, according to the release.
The JUST Act is intended to build on the international Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues of 2009, which affirms that the protection of property rights is an essential component of a democratic society based on the rule of law and recognizes the importance of restituting or compensating Holocaust-related confiscations made during the Holocaust-era between 1933-45, according to the release. Unfortunately, many nations that endorsed this declaration, including many of our NATO allies, have reportedly not fully addressed the restitution of Jewish communal, private and heirless property.
The JUST Act permanently amends current law to require the State Department to report on certain countries’ compliance with and progress toward the goals of the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets, as well as on what actions those countries are taking to resolve the claims of U.S. citizens. This will enhance on-going U.S. efforts to urge Central and Eastern European countries to achieve progress on this issue and will help build on America’s commitment to ensuring justice for Holocaust victims and their families, according to the release.
“We commend Sens. Baldwin and Rubio for this bipartisan effort to pursue justice for Holocaust victims and their families. The ability to spotlight how countries are fulfilling property restitution commitments provides another tool in America’s diplomatic arsenal. Passage of this bill would send a strong signal that the U.S. commitment to justice for Holocaust victims remains a U.S. foreign policy priority,” said Stacy Burdett, Vice President, Government Relations, Advocacy & Community Engagement, Anti-Defamation League.
“Seventy years after the end of World War II and twenty-five years since democracy has been restored to the nations of Central and Eastern Europe there can no longer be any excuse for delaying the restitution of Holocaust-era properties to their rightful owners. We hope this legislation will push those governments to finally act,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, Director, International Jewish Affairs, AJC.
The release from Baldwin’s office added that The JUST Act has received strong support from organizations across the country including World Jewish Restitution Organization, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, J Street, Jewish Federations of North America, B’nai B’rith International, HIAS refugee assistance organization, National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the Jewish Home and Care Center Foundation in Milwaukee.