Lithuania to pay Jewish community

  • 2009-03-11
  • By Adam Mullett
VILNIUS - Lithuania has agreed to pay out 113 million litas in compensation in place of the restitution of Jewish community real estate that was lost during World War II.
The sum is outlined in draft legislation by the Justice Ministry for a special law on the compensation of Jewish Real Estate.

The recently drafted document says that compensation will be paid out in installments starting Jan. 1, 2011 and ending March 1, 2021, with the money to be transferred to a government appointed fund.
"We are happy that this government is making the effort towards the restitution process. On the other hand, we are still looking at the proposal 's the only thing we would like is to make it as smooth as possible, not make tension in society, to make it transparent," Simonas Gurevicius, head of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, told The Baltic Times.

He said that the restitution would go a long way in promoting the country, even outside Jewish circles.
"Not only the Jews will benefit, but the whole community will benefit. This will help heritage 's this is not just buildings, but for the development of the culture and promoting the country to the whole world. The opening of a library in Lithuania would not only benefit the Jewish community, but [everyone]," Gurevicius said.
The property's value was calculated based on archival information extracted from the Lithuanian Archives Department and that of the Center of Registers.

The Jewish community is eligible for restitution for a total of 136 objects, the total value of which amounts to 376.98 million litas (109 million euros).
Gurevicius said it is important that people understand the nature of the compensation.
"Restitution is not a compensation for Nazis, but it is just giving back what belonged to the Jewish community at some point," he said.

Lithuania has agreed to bring forth restitution for all nationalized or otherwise expropriated Jewish community property previously used for religious, cultural, educational, scientific or charity-related activity, all except the land.
According to standing legislation, the Jewish communities throughout Lithuania were restituted only for their houses of prayer.
The Justice Ministry has presented the draft piece of legislation to state institutions and three Jewish communities.

"We are sending out comments on this 's for six years, we have been making changes to the existing law to adapt to the Jewish community today, because it is different to the Catholic Church or other religious groups. Now there is a new proposal 's instead of giving back the buildings, but paying compensation," Gurevicius said.
"We are happy, but this is just the beginning of negotiations. But it won't be like before, with lots of promises and nothing being done and tension in society," he said.