World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder today reaffirmed his commitment to obtain restitution for those who suffered material losses during the Shoah. Lauder was reconfirmed Tuesday as president of the World Jewish Restitution Organization at a meeting of the top Jewish restitution body. He has served as the leader of the WJRO since 2007. “I call on those countries that have been slow to move on this issue now. Time is running out. Survivors cannot accept that property stolen from them and those who perished is not being returned. The countries in question must do the right thing. Justice must be done, and seen to be done," he said.
Abraham Biderman was elected as co-chairman of the organization’s Executive Committee, joining Natan Sharansky, the head of the Jewish Agency for Israel and a former Israeli government minister. Biderman brings several decades’ experience as a Jewish communal leader and a deep involvement in Holocaust-related restitution issues to his new position. He replaces Steven Schwager, who is stepping down following his retirement as CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
The WJRO works to attain restitution of private and Jewish communal property lost in the Holocaust in all countries other than Germany and Austria. The WJRO, working together with local Jewish communities, negotiates with governments to reach agreements and procure legislation concerning such restitution.
Lauder announced that the WJRO would focus its efforts on Poland, the only major country in Central or Eastern Europe that has not passed legislation for the restitution of private property stolen during the Holocaust. The organization, which was founded in 1992 at the initiative of the World Jewish Congress, will continue to advocate for the return of communal and private property in other countries, including Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania.
Douglas Davidson, special envoy for Holocaust Issues for the US State Department, addressed the WJRO meeting and welcomed the organization’s intensified activity and its success in raising the profile of restitution issues.