Israel Looking for the Rightful Owners of 55,000 Unclaimed Holocaust Victims’ Assets

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Many times, we feel helpless and unsure of what to do to honor the memory of the Jews that perished in the Holocaust. So here is an opportunity that should be taken seriously – to help Israel find the rightful owners of over 55,000 unclaimed assets that were purchased by Jews before and during the Holocaust.

Over 80 years ago, after World War I, European Jews began investing in the dream of a Jewish homeland. They started buying real estate, opening bank accounts, buying stocks, and even purchasing artwork in the Land of Israel – all from abroad.

Tragically, many of these visionary Zionist Jews would never get the chance to arrive in Israel because they perished at the hands of the Nazis.

So what has happened to the victims’ investments? Over the years, as survivors and their descendents have discovered their family’s assets, and have attempted to reclaim them from Israeli banks, they have met with resistance and painful struggles.

One such story, featured on the campaign’s website, Hashava.org.il details the journey of Shlomo Gonen to reclaim his uncle Nathan Goldstein’s assets. “My uncle Nathan and his brother (my father) Baruch came from a very rich family. They were in agricultural machinery. When my father made aliyah, he received a special entry permit that was beyond the British White Book's quota, because he had more than one thousand liras. In 1975, my father told me that a lot of money had been deposited in the Leumi Bank. He was very angry with everyone involved. As far as he knew, the British had returned all the assets deposited by Holocaust victims to Israel in 1950. The problem was that at least some of the documents had been destroyed. My father told me that in spite of his attempts, the Leumi Bank officials were fighting him, and he felt that they were debasing the memory of his family, who had died in the Holocaust. ''They offered me the same sum that had been deposited, without 40 years of interest,'' he told me.”

In reaction to this and many similar stories, the Israeli public outcry was so great that Israel formed The Company for Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets, determined to help victims’ families receive what was rightfully theirs. The Hashava website explains that “Recently, the Company paid Shlomo [Gonen] over NIS 300,000 out of the money the bank agreed to transfer without admitting its historical liability regarding the victims' accounts.”

The campaign’s organizers are hopeful of finding the beneficiaries, and has spent years organizing and detailing the assets. They created an easy to use website, hashava.org.il/eng so people will feel comfortable looking at the list of assets and submitting an application. They also opened a 24-hour hotline: +972-3-516-4117.

But what if the owners cannot be found? The assets, according to new Israeli law, will be used to help Holocaust survivors in need, and fund Holocaust educational projects.

Read entire article at NY Blueprint

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