Compensation for Jewish community

  • 2008-08-19
  • In cooperation with BNS

RIGA - Latvian Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis has issued a decreeordering the Justice Ministry to set up a new workgroup to considercompensations to Latvia's Jewish community for losses it suffered during the Holocaust,Neatkariga Riga newspaper reports.

The issue of compensations is being raised again after the prime ministerreceived a letter from a global Jewish organization in the spring. Theorganization's representative Steven Schwager notes in the letter that in 2006Latvian lawmakers rejected a bill that would have seen 32 million lats (EUR45.5 mln) paid out to the Jewish community.

The Jewish organization demands that a "workgroup be set up as soon aspossible to settle the issue of the unreturned Jewish properties".

After the letter was sent to the Latvian Justice Ministry in May, JusticeMinister Gaidis Berzins said it would not be reasonable to form the workgroupas compensations can be claimed under the already existing laws.

The prime minister, however, ordered the ministry to set up a new workgroupand the ministry complied.

The council of Latvia'sruling coalition has not yet discussed the issue of compensations to the Jewishcommunity, while Maris Kucinskis, chairman of the ruling People's Party factionin the parliament, said he had heard nothing about a new workgroup. He did saythat most probably the parliament would reject a proposal to pay out such hugecompensations.

In 2006, the Latvian parliament rejected the government's bill on support toLatvia's Jewish community, to pay almost 32 million lats to Jewishorganizations in ten years to compensate for the "unjust historicalconsequences the Jewish community has suffered due to the Holocaust committedby the Nazi Germany and the Soviet occupation regime" in Latvia'sterritory.

The government planned to gradually pay the allocated money from 2007 till2016.

The Jewish community would be able to use the allocated funds for renewingand preserving the cultural heritage, development of the Jewish community,financing culture, education and other events, ensuring social assistance tothe low-income members of the community and Holocaust victims.

The draft proposal also envisaged returning properties, such as formersynagogues, that belonged to the Jewish organizations before the Sovietoccupation.