United States of America Hail Jewish Compensation by Lithuanian Parliament

United States of America Hail Jewish Compensation by Lithuanian Parliament

Photo: Robert Gilchrist, by D. Umbrasas courtesy LRT.lt

The U.S. embassy in Vilnius said Tuesday the United States hail the Lithuanian parliament’s decision to compensate Jewish private property seized by the Nazis and Soviets to the tune of 37 million euros.

American ambassador to Lithuania Robert Gilchrist said: “The passing of this legislation is an important step in recognizing the tragedy of the Holocaust in Lithuania. It is not, however, only about addressing claims for the past. It is about preserving the memory of the Holocaust for future generations and working together against intolerance and hatred.”

U.S. special envoy for Holocaust issues Ellen Germain commented: “After the Holocaust, there was little time to create successful restitution programs before the Communist regimes nationalized private property. By passing this bill, Lithuania has taken another important step in fulfilling restitution commitments. For survivors and their families, this is a direct acknowledgement of the great wrong that was done to them.”

The Lithuanian parliament Tuesday adopted a new redaction of the existing Law on Goodwill Compensation which additionally allocates 37 million euros for compensating Jewish private property. The existing law and previous compensation payments were for communal and religious property seized by the Nazis and the Soviets. The new legislation comes into effect in January.

Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė proposed the new compensation package saying Lithuania has made compensation for Jewish religious community property, but hasn’t made compensation for nationalized private property.

Lithuania has almost completed payments to compensate seized Jewish communal and religious property which the country pledged to the amount of 37 million euros as well to be paid out over a decade. Those payments are scheduled to end in March.

As previously, the new compensation will go to the Goodwill Foundation which is responsible for making payments to the property owners and heirs. Applications for this compensation will be open till the end of 2023 with payments paid out from 2024 to 2030.

The amended law stipulates symbolic compensation will be allocated for property seized illegally or illicitly during the period of occupations by totalitarian regimes, property which belonged to people of Jewish ethnicity living in Lithuania before and/or during World War II.

In their news item, the United States of America embassy to Lithuania wrote: “It is United States policy to return Holocaust-era assets to their rightful owners, secure compensation for Nazi-era wrongs and ensure that the Holocaust is remembered and commemorated appropriately. The U.S. Embassy in Vilnius actively supports efforts to strengthen historical memory in Lithuania, including Holocaust education programs in local schools. Both the United States and Lithuania are members of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which unites us in supporting Holocaust education and remembrance and combating anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

Full text of US embassy statement here.