Survivor group demands stake of Holocaust victims' assets
Foundation argues that only 20% of legal heirs are expected to be found and that rest of funds should be channeled to needy survivors.
A survivors' group is calling for the immediate distribution of assets owned by Jews believed to have perished in the Holocaust and says a company set up to deal with such assets is slowing the process.
Over the past few months, The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel has launched a campaign against The Holocaust Victims Assets Restitution (HVAR), demanding that it transfer its assets estimated at NIS 700 million without delay and that it include the Foundation among the beneficiaries.
"This money does not belong to HVAR, which has violated the law for a long time by not transferring it to survivors," a Foundation official said. "We intend to continue to fight over this issue with all the means at our disposal."
HVAR is expected to transfer some of its assets to The Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel (COHSI) in April and has agreed to transfer the rest when all the surviving legal heirs of the properties have been located.
"On the basis of what we have learned, we will probably focus on directly assisting needy survivors and fund special projects in which we can find our own niche," HVAR Managing Director Yishari Amrami said. He denied claims that his company intends to deny the Foundation of funds altogether.
The Foundation, however, argues that only 20 percent of legal heirs are expected to be found and that the rest of the funds should be immediately channeled to needy survivors.
The Foundation provides nursing care to Holocaust survivors and refunds medical expenses, according to its Web site. It is slated to receive NIS 100 million from the government for its funding in April.
HVAR was founded in 2006 to locate unclaimed property in Israel that belonged to Jews assumed to have died during World War II. Such assets are believed to be worth NIS 1.5 billion and include real estate, works of art, bank accounts and stock options.
HVAR also controls 61 percent of the Jewish Colonial Trust (JCT), a company founded by the Zionist movement in the late 19th century now worth over NIS 200 million. In addition, HVAR has published two lists of JCT stock owners and is examing hundreds of property claims.
The Centre of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel was founded in 1988 as an umbrella association embracing 28 organizations of Holocaust survivors who live in Israel, according to its Web site.
Last summer, thousands of people marched between the Knesset and the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem to protest the government's plan to grant Holocaust survivors a monthly stipend of just NIS 83.