Czech Jews who lost their property during WWII have finally received compensation from the Czech state. In the course of five years, the Foundation for Holocaust Victims distributed 100 million crowns (over 4 million dollars) put in by the Czech state among some 500 claimants from 27 countries to mitigate some property injustices caused to Holocaust victims.
The compensation programme announced in June 2001was the first such initiative in Central and Eastern Europe. The state authorised the Foundation for Holocaust Victims to process the claims and distribute the compensation. Ludmila Pocova from the Foundation was coordinator of the programme.
"With the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we managed to distribute thousands of application forms and leaflets for the programme to almost all the countries of the world that were in question. By December 2001 we received 1,256 claims and the work of reviewing them began. We had to first look at whether the claims were complete, whether they had all the documents, whether it was really property on the territory of the Czech Republic and whether there was a real claim."
Compensation was calculated based on an estimated price of the property in 1939. In the end the Foundation awarded 516 financial contributions, the last person awarded being symbolically an Israeli person. The Czech Foreign Ministry played a significant role in the initial phase of the programme. Tomas Pojar is deputy Foreign Minister.
"We were trying to assist the Foundation in contacting survivors in other countries that they have also a chance to claim their property back or some kind of compensation. Then we were trying to provide assistance in that. The financial input for this specific Foundation was 300 million Czech crowns. One third of that went for specific compensation but altogether the Czech state has compensated Holocaust survivors with billions of crowns as well as other billions of crowns that came from other countries. We know that it is 50 years later than it should have been but at least symbolically we have been trying to do our best."
"We have a huge chapter which concerns art and art objects. The possibility to claim is regulated by a law which was adopted four years ago and expires on 31 December 2006. Unfortunately, we know about many cases which have not been settled so far and we know about a bulk of archive document which have not been searched, which have not been documented and which suggest that there are many more art objects which could have been returned if we had found the proper claimants or, on the other hand, the claimant had known about the possibility to claim it."
According to Tomas Kraus, abolishment or even a prolongation of the deadline by five years would make a big difference.
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