WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) are applauding congressional passage of the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act (S.447). This bipartisan legislation will improve efforts assisting Holocaust survivors and the families of Holocaust victims by requiring the State Department to report on the progress of certain European countries on the return of—or restitution for—wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets. In the House, the legislation was introduced by U.S. Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ).
“The House’s passage of the JUST Act is one more step toward ensuring justice for Holocaust survivors and the families of Holocaust victims,” said Senator Rubio. “By enhancing ongoing efforts between the State Department and European countries, this bill will help facilitate long deserved restitution to survivors and their families whose property was stolen during the Holocaust. I applaud today’s action by the House, and I look forward to seeing the JUST Act signed into law soon.”
“I applaud the House today for supporting this bipartisan effort to take a critical step toward justice, at long last, for Holocaust survivors and the families of Holocaust victims,” said Senator Baldwin. “These individuals have waited far too long to recover, or receive compensation for, what is rightfully theirs, and by highlighting this issue as an American foreign policy priority, we will spur action in countries that are falling short of their obligations. I look forward to seeing this bipartisan legislation signed into law by the President as soon as possible.”
“More than seventy years after the horrors of the Holocaust, far too many survivors still haven’t seen their property returned or compensation granted for goods seized by the Nazi regime and others,” said Chairman Crowley. “I applaud my colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate for doing what is right by passing the JUST Act and recognizing the importance of bringing greater justice to Holocaust victims, survivors, and their families.”
“This is a powerful statement of America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Holocaust survivors in their quest for justice,” said Gideon Taylor, World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) Chair of Operations. “We thank the Senate and House, and particularly Senators Baldwin and Rubio and Representatives Crowley and Smith, for their heartfelt leadership on this issue.”
“It is not about the money, it is about the justice of having the right to receive back what was once owned by your family and forcibly taken from you without justification,” said Howard Melton, a Holocaust survivor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“We survivors cannot afford to wait any longer for justice seventy years after the Nazis took everything from us,” said Nate Taffel, a holocaust survivor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is thankful to Senator Baldwin “for all her efforts to help Holocaust survivors achieve a measure of justice with the passage of the JUST Act.”
“Our families, who were slaughtered during the war, left it to us. We have waited too long for justice for our property,” said Norman Trysk-Frajman, a Holocaust survivor currently living in Boynton Beach, Florida. Norman hopes that the JUST Act will bring him and his cousins closer to receiving justice for the theft of his family’s property by the Nazis. He also expressed his thanks to Senator Rubio for introducing the JUST Act as well as seeing its passage through until the end by supporting it.
“[The JUST Act] brings us closer to receiving a measure of justice that we greatly deserve,” said Alisa Sorkin, a Holocaust survivor living in Florida.
“Justice has not been afforded to me for the theft of the property owned by my family in Poland. The apartment building that was owned by my parents and in which I lived as a child is still there, yet someone else has title to it and I never received the proper compensation for such a transfer of ownership. That building and the factory behind it are my only direct connections to my past. I am thankful for the JUST Act and, through this legislation, helping Holocaust survivors achieve a small measure of justice for our material loss,” said Lea Evron, a Holocaust survivor living in New York.
The JUST Act will build on the international Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues of 2009, which affirms that the protection of property rights is an essential component of a democratic society based on the rule of law and recognizes the importance of restituting or compensating Holocaust-related confiscations made during the Holocaust-era from 1933 to 1945. The Nazi regime and its collaborators systematically stole property from European Jews. More than seven decades after the Holocaust ended, many survivors and their heirs continue to wait for their property to be returned or to receive compensation for it. According to Jewish claimants and advocates, a more comprehensive accounting of countries’ records on these issues is needed to help incentivize progress by foreign governments.
The JUST Act requires the State Department to report on certain countries’ compliance with and progress toward the goals of the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets, as well as on what actions those countries are taking to resolve the claims of U.S. citizens. This will enhance on-going U.S. efforts to urge Central and Eastern European countries to achieve progress on this issue and will help build on America’s commitment to ensuring justice for Holocaust victims and their families.
The public record created by the JUST Act will serve as a powerful tool for the U.S. State Department and the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO)—the global umbrella body that advocates on behalf of the Jewish community for the restitution of property confiscated during the Holocaust and its aftermath—to encourage Terezin countries to complete the restitution process.
The JUST Act has received strong support from organizations across the country including World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), American Jewish Committee (AJC), Anti-Defamation League (ADL), J Street, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), B’nai B’rith International, HIAS refugee assistance organization, National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the Jewish Home and Care Center Foundation in Milwaukee.
In addition to Rubio and Baldwin, the JUST Act is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Tim Scott (R-SC), Todd C. Young (R-IN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John McCain (R-AZ), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), John Thune (R-SD), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ben Cardin (D-MD).