On Wednesday, Dec. 3rd, the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) announced the transfer of a government building in Croatia to the local Jewish community as restitution for properties illegally seized by the government.
B'nai B'rith International is a member organization of the WJRO and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin serves as the head negotiator when the organization meets with European governments.
In 2009, 46 European countries, including Croatia, signed the Terezin Declaration, a non-binding pledge to restitute stolen property to the rightful heirs and Jewish community. In April of 2014, Mariaschin explained why this declaration has been easier said than done (via the Jewish Telegraphic Agency):
"We had some leverage at a certain point in this process — the issue of countries coming into NATO or the EU — but that was accomplished in the 1990s or the early part of the 2000s. What we really are dependent on now is the moral imperative of the case, or the goodwill or lack of it by the governments involved, and on WJRO’s persuasive abilities. That’s a pretty challenging task."
Negotiations were completed yesterday, with a $4 million government property being turned over to the Jewish community. Read highlights from the announcement, via the JTA, Times of Israel, Arutz Sheva and The Jewish Forward.
The organization noted that country's restitution law does not apply to property seized during World War II, nor does it allow claims from citizens of most foreign countries.
Croatia has also not provided restitution for heirless Jewish-owned property confiscated by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Before World War II, an estimated 25,000 Jews lived in what is now Croatia; only 6000 survived. The rest were killed or deported to Germany by local authorities or the German Army itself. The exact figures remain disputed.
Some 2,000 Jews live in Croatia today, mostly in Zagreb.
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