Israel to Publish First List of Holocaust Victims' Assets

The Company for Locating and Retrieving Assets of People who were Killed in the Holocaust intends to publish a list of properties and invite heirs of the victims to claim them.

However, the banks have refused to cooperate with the company and transfer the accounts of Holocaust victims' to it. Two MKs from the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee yesterday threatened to petition the High Court of Justice to force the banks to return the money to the Holocaust victims' heirs.

The company's acting head, Yishai Amrami, said a list of some 500 lots, some 50 apartments and NIS 60 million in various bank accounts, is to be released in two weeks. This will be the first publication of a list of Holocaust victims' assets that have been held in Israel.

The move is intended to launch the process of returning of the Holocaust victims' property and funds - many years after a similar process took place in European states.

The company for Locating and Retrieving Assets of People who were Killed in the Holocaust is in charge of concentrating all the assets, locating the victims' heirs and returning the property to them.

Amrami yesterday briefed the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee about the company's activities, including its talks to reclaim victims' property from other bodies.

The Custodian General recently transferred 335 lots, 53 apartments and NIS 60 million and 1,000 files of Holocaust victims' assets to the company. The company will publish the details of every file.

The negotiations with the Custodian General over the final sum to be given the company, including profits on assets, interest and linkage have yet to begin.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) and Himanuta Ltd., a wholly-owned JNF subsidiary, have begun transferring 136 lots to the company.

These properties that the Custodian General, JNF and Himanuta have handed over to the company will comprise the first list, as well as details of 9,000 bank accounts that were located by the parliamentary inquiry committee to locate and reclaim Holocaust victims' assets.

The Israel Lands Administration (ILA), which received 56 other lots, has leased them. The company has begun negotiating over payment for these lots.

"We asked Bank Leumi for all the data and documents it had. We were refused," the company's officials reported to the Constitution Committee.

Bank Hamizrahi told the company that it rejected the results of the parliamentary inquiry committee, and Discount Bank denied having any assets of victims.

"I stand shamefacedly before people who have been waiting for seven years for us to return the money they deserve, and none of them has received anything yet," said MK Colette Avital, who headed the parliamentary inquiry committee. She and MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) said at yesterday's meeting that they would petition the High Court to make the banks return the Holocaust victims' money to the heirs.

"It's scandalous that Bank Leumi isn't giving the money. We must ask the High Court to revoke the bank's license," Solodkin said.

Bank Leumi head of foreign relations and public relations Gideon Shor said the bank was "cooperating with the company with a lot of good will."

He said the bank has allocated NIS 35 million to cover its debts to Holocaust victims and is waiting for the company to submit its own estimate as a basis for negotiation.

Constitution Committee chair Menachem Ben Sasson said he would meet directors of the bodies holding Holocaust victims' property and demand they transfer the assets.