U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an original co-sponsor of the resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the restitution and/or compensation of property seized from Jews during the Nazi and Communist eras. The Resolution passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today by voice vote.
The Holocaust Restitution Resolution recognizes the unmet needs of many aging Holocaust survivors and calls on European countries that have not already done so to establish a "simple, transparent and timely process" to return or compensate those whose property was unjustly confiscated. The resolution specifically mentions the lack of progress in several European countries, including Poland, Romania, Latvia, Slovenia and Croatia.
"The fair restitution or compensation of property unjustly seized from Holocaust survivors has been one my top priorities for many years," said Senator Cardin. "We have had some successes in this area, but not nearly enough and now time is running out for Holocaust survivors who are elderly and who often have pressing financial needs."
In December 2000, then-Congressman Cardin was able to assist Jacqueline Waldman, a Baltimore constituent, in reclaiming her family home in Romania. The home was confiscated during World War II under the Aryan Laws that were used to seize property and other valuables from Jews and other minority groups. It took years of battling with the Romanian government for then-Congressman Cardin to succeed in having Mrs. Waldman's family home returned to her.
According to the Jerusalem Center for the Public Affairs, in 1930s-dollars the value of Jewish assets confiscated amounted to between $10-15 billion; in 2005-dollars, those assets were valued at approximately $143-$215 billion.
The Resolution states that the Senate:
(1) recognizes the unmet needs of many Holocaust survivors and the urgency of addressing those needs;
(2) appreciates the efforts of the governments of countries in Europe that have enacted and implemented legislation for the restitution of or compensation for private, communal, and religious property wrongly confiscated during the Nazi or Communist eras;
(3) welcomes the efforts of the governments of many post-Communist countries to address complex and difficult questions relating to the status of wrongly confiscated property;
(4) urges each government that has not already done so to complete the process of adopting and implementing necessary and proper legislation to effect the in rem return of or the payment of compensation for wrongly confiscated property;
(5) calls on each government to establish restitution and compensation schemes in a simple, transparent, and timely manner to provide a real benefit to those who suffered from the unjust confiscation of their property; and
(6) calls on the Secretary of State to issue an updated report on property restitution in Central and Eastern Europe that evaluates whether the governments of those countries have met the basic standards and best practices of the international community.
Other Senate sponsors of the Resolution include: U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).