In commemoration of the United Nations' Holocaust Remembrance Day, B’nai B’rith International held a discussion titled “60 Years of Material Restitution: History and Challenges,” in New York City.
One of the leading experts in the field of material restitution, Arie Bucheister, chief of staff at the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, explained the daunting challenges facing survivors and their heirs to have property returned or material compensation made to them.
“The crimes of Nazi murderers and robbers resulted in countries profiting from Jewish victims,” Bucheister said.
While Germany has “far reaching compensation and restitution laws,” Bucheister says many other countries are without such legislation. Poland has no compensation laws, and a number of countries, such as Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Lithuania have enacted various restitution laws for victims with mixed degrees of effectiveness. It can be especially challenging in the former Soviet bloc countries where much of the property that was confiscated is now nationalized, he said.
“Despite being more than a half-century removed from the horrors of the Holocaust, it remains ever-important that B’nai B’rith and other Jewish groups press on in our fight for some minimal justice to be made to survivors and their families,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said from New York where he addressed the program. “Programs like this open eyes to the uphill battle we continue to face.”
Bucheister, born in Israel and a child of two survivors, has been a principal negotiator for the conference for many years. He says one of the conference’s main functions is negotiating for heirless property that’s been sold. Whatever is returned—whether it be monetary or physical property—goes toward communal and social welfare needs.
“Each year we have a program on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and every year it’s another chilling reminder of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people--atrocities against humanity,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, who addressed the program, said. “Recounting these crimes reminds us, once again, that we all must bear witness.”
This program preceded the official U.N. Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, which B’nai B’rith representatives also attended. B’nai B’rith played an active role in the United Nations’ adoption of Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005.