Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia calls on Saeima not to delay settling restitution issue

  • 2020-08-04
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia has called on Saeima not to delay the solving of the restitution issue, according to a statement released by the organization. 

The Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia indicates in the statement that the US administration is still paying close attention to the remembrance of Holocaust victims and preserving the memory of the genocide Jews suffered during World War II. Holocaust survivors have become witnesses to one of the gravest and most horrible crimes ever committed against humanity, including murders, devastation and looting of property. 

The JUST Act Report, released on July 29 by the US Department of State, provides information on progress achieved by countries in providing restitution of or compensation for property confiscated during the Holocaust era or subsequently nationalized during the Communist era. 

Since so few Holocaust survivors are still alive today, the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia believes that Saeima should return to the adoption of the 2019 bill on restitution and pass the law in order to ensure at least minimal compensation for more than 200 properties that were seized from the Jewish community in Latvia during the war and the subsequent Soviet occupation. 

The US Department of State notes in its report Latvia's achievements in areas like archive and history studies, education of the public and preserving the memory of the Holocaust, the council said.

At the same time, the report draws attention to an excessively slow restitution process. Between 1991 and 2016 the Latvian state has only returned a small part of the public and religious properties that were seized from the Jewish community during the wartime and the years of Soviet occupation, although the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia has identified 265 more properties that should be returned to the community. 

"We hope that the government and coalition parties will show political will and courage to take the right decision. We still hope that already soon Latvia will become one of the countries that have fully met their obligations under the Terezin Declaration," the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia writes.

As reported, a year ago, For Development/For withdrew its proposal on restitution of Jewish properties seized from the Latvian Jewish community during the holocaust and the Communist regime by paying EUR 40 million in compensation.

The party’s leader Daniels Pavluts said that the bill has been withdrawn because of objections of other lawmakers and claims that there had been no discussions held on the initiative.

In order to compensate the Jewish community of Latvia for the real estate seized illegally during the Holocaust and Communist totalitarian regime, For Development/For had proposed paying the community compensation of EUR 40 million.

The compensation would have been paid to the Latvian Jewish Community's Restitution Fund. The fund would then only use the funds allocated to finance events and projects that deal with religion, culture, education, science, healthcare, history, sports, charity, restoration and preservation of the cultural and historical heritage of Latvian Jews, promotion of the integration, unity and development of civil society in Latvia, management of the Jewish community and fund's properties, as well as social and material assistance for those victims of the Holocaust in Latvia who currently live in other countries.

For Development/For explained that the purpose of the initiative was "to restore historical justice and, with good will, to compensate the Jewish community of Latvia for the historical consequences of the Holocaust and communist totalitarian regime in the territory of the Republic of Latvia."

The draft legislation also provided that this compensation would be final, its amount not subject to changes, and therefore there would be no other claims regarding the real estate seized from the Latvian Jewish community.