23 June 2011
In Vilnius, Lithuania's parliament, the Seimas, has agreed to pay US$ 52 million over ten years to compensate for private property confiscated from Jews during the Nazi occupation. International and Lithuanian Jewish organizations have been pushing for compensation for over a decade. The bill, which was approved by 81 of the 141 legislators, still has to be signed into law by the president. Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius praised the bill's passage in a radio interview, calling it a demonstration of goodwill and "understanding of the tragedy the Jewish community suffered during the Holocaust."
The properties in question are currently in the hands of the Lithuanian government. The government reportedly would begin paying into a special compensation fund starting next year. The funds will be used in part to restore Jewish heritage sites. In addition, US$ 1.25 million would be paid directly to Holocaust survivors next year.
Faina Kukliansky, deputy chairwoman of Lithuania’s Jewish community, told the news agency 'Reuters' that the spirit of the bill was more important than the amount. "This is what the state can afford at this stage," she said.
The World Jewish Restitution Organization said in a reaction that the law offered “a small measure of justice" and added: “While the amount which will be paid over the next decade represents only a small fraction of the value of the communal and religious property which was owned by the Jewish community prior to World War II, the passage of the law is historic, reflecting the Lithuanian government’s recognition of its moral obligation to return or provide compensation for stolen Jewish property."
Lithuanian Jewry, which once number over 200,000, was nearly wiped out during the Holocaust, and Lithuanian perpetrators as well as German killing squads were key to the genocide.
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