Foundation for Holocaust victims

Contact details:

Maiselova 38/15
110 00 Prague 1
tel:   +420 224 261 615
fax:   +420 224 261 573

The Foundation for Holocaust Victims is a non-governmental organization, established in 2000 by the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic. It is managed by the Board of Directors. Five members of the Board of Directors are nominated by the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic and one each are nominated by the Vice-Chairman of the Czech Government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Culture, and the Minister of Finance.

For the second group of claimants, those without Czech citizenship, the Governmental Commission (established in 1999) has prepared an “extra-legislative” solution. Namely, the Government transferred a sum of 300 million CZK (i.e. around 750,000,- USD) to the ”Holocaust Victims Foundation” established by the Federation with the participation of the Government. This Foundation will reserve approx. one third of this sum for the purposes of those who lost their property in the territory of today’s Czech Republic in the years 1938 – 1945 and were not able to recover ownership after 1990 mainly for formal reasons. This concerns also the heirs of those properties.

The Holocaust Victims Foundation will assemble all claims which would have met the conditions required by the expired Czech laws and were not compensated before (e.g. based on bilateral agreements concluded by Czechoslovakia and other countries as compensation for property nationalization). Unlike the legislation the condition of Czech citizenship will not be required by the Foundation’s regulations.

The deadline for submitting applications is December 31st 2001. After evaluating the quantity and quality of claims the Foundation will grant every claimant a financial sum, however not as compensation but rather as a symbolic gesture. However, the Federation considers as necessary that the satisfaction of those persons should reflect respective value of the lost property. This is particularly difficult in a situation where the total number of claims is not known and neither the value of claimed properties. It is impossible therefore to estimate a total financial sum needed for the compensation, if that should not become a caricature of the original purpose, i.e. the effort of the Czech Government to rectify in the framework of its possibilities the injustice caused to Holocaust victims. The Federation therefore considers the given sum as an advance payment that should be eventually increased after the final evaluation of all claims.

The Federation came after consultations with its partners, the AJC and the WJRO, to a conclusion that the sum – or at least its two thirds, i.e. 200 mil. CZK – which the Czech Government transferred to the Foundation can be considered, with respect to current possibilities of the Czech state, as an acceptable form of partial compensation for Jewish communal property which is owned today by the state and could have not been returned physically. These means could at least help to solve some of the tasks which the Jewish Communities, united at the Federation, cannot handle sufficiently today. These are foremost the needs in the spheres of social care – primarily the needs of Holocaust survivors – Jewish education programs and projects for preservation of Jewish monuments and cemeteries in the territory of the Czech Republic.

The sub-committee of the Joint Commission dealing with communal properties assembled numerous materials from state and municipal archives. It came to a conclusion that Jewish Communities and other Jewish legal entities possessed before 1938 approx. 1.500 real estate properties, cemeteries, synagogues, plots, communal buildings etc. Many of them were destroyed not only during the 2nd World War but also during the decades of Communism that followed. Many were returned in the short period of democracy between 1945 and 1948. Many have been privatized or taken by municipalities after 1990.

However, there are still several dozens of those that are in possession of the state. A full report focusing on structure and types of real estate will be published by the end of 2001. This historical research, however, served also as a base for the Government decree which should return selected number of state-owned real estate to Czech Jewish Communities expected by the end of 2001 and for further negotiations about respective compensation.