Material damage in Shoah $230b-$320b
An unprecedented report published yesterday by the Israeli government estimates the material damage caused to the Jewish people during the Holocaust at $230 billion to $320 billion. This estimate does not include reparations for the suffering of survivors, or for the murder of 6 million Jews.
The report's authors call on the government to remove obstacles to the process of restoring Jewish property, not only in Europe but in the U.S. and Israel as well. The report's recommendations were adopted yesterday by the ministerial committee for the restoration of Jewish property, headed by Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nathan Sharansky.
The report recommends that the government "work through issues" involving Israel-Germany relations regarding reparations, especially the 1952 agreement stating that the government of Israel will pay stipends to Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Israel, in exchange for a one-time payment of DM 30 million.
The authors of the report say that because of this agreement, the government is required to pay survivors sums that are many times greater than the amount originally received from the Germans - as much as NIS 1.9 million every year.
The report also notes that Israel received no assistance from Germany for the absorption of 150,000 survivors who came to Israel from the Soviet Union after 1965, when the reparations agreement came to term.
The report also recommends that the government follow through the process of restoring Jewish property from Swiss banks, insurance companies and stolen art work, and that a process of registering property that was "stolen, nationalized or left behind ... when Jews left their countries of origin from 1933 until today."
The issue of reclamation of property is deemed a highly sensitive issue in countries like Poland, where several national groups are demanding that their property be restored. Haaretz previously reported that the Foreign Ministry object to the government taking action in this area, lest it jeopardize diplomatic relations.
The authors of the report note that the timing of the report, 60 years after the end of the World War II, is due to the fall of the Soviet bloc, which resulted in the influx of new and valuable information that was stored in Soviet archives.
In addition, new avenues for the restoration of Jewish property that was held in the formerly Communist states of central and Eastern Europe were opened once these countries became free-market democracies.
However, the picture the report paints regarding the process of property restoration in these countries is dismal. None of the countries have made agreements granting private individuals recourse to reclaiming their property, although there has been some success in restoring property to local Jewish communities.
However, only some 10 percent of community property from before the war has been restored. In Western Europe, on the other hand, like in France and Germany, the process has advanced considerably.
Government activity in the field of property reclamation began in 1999, after then-attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein proposed that a public body be formed to author a report regarding the restoration of Jewish property.
On December 28, 2003, the government decided to implement the idea and created a ministerial committee headed by Sharansky, who in early 2004 appointed his assistant Aharon Mor to prepare an up-to-date report on the issue.
Mor, an economist from the international division of the Finance Ministry, headed the committee, which included representatives of the ministries of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Housing, and Justice, as well as members of the Israel Bar Association, Association of CPAs, and Jewish organizations that deal with the subject of reclamation.
The report - the first time such an estimate has been published in an official government document - was based on data from earlier reports, and includes damages of three kinds: private property stolen from Jews in banks, insurance policies, and financial assets, real estate, jewelry, furniture, intellectual property, religious artifacts and other valuable objects.
This type of property amounts to $150 billion. Two other types of damages are the loss of income ($100 billion to 150 billion), and unpaid wages ($50 billion) of forced labor workers.
Mor told Haaretz yesterday that the authors of the report did not include an estimate on the value of the loss of life of six million Jews, because they were guided by the principle established in the 1950s that "one does not claim money for those who perished."