Florida Republican Marco Rubio is leading the charge on Capitol Hill to ensure property seized by Nazi Germany and its allies during the Holocaust will be restored to families.
Rubio teamed up with Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin in the Senate and New Jersey Republican Chris Smith and New York Democrat Joe Crowley in the House to bring out the “Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act” on Friday. The sponsors insist the bill “will improve efforts to assist 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.”
The new legislation would continue efforts from the 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 between 1933-45.” The bill would have the State Department report on how Central and Eastern European counties are complying with those efforts.
“I am pleased to be the lead Republican sponsor of this important bipartisan legislation which, if passed, will play a critical role in ensuring that Holocaust-era property restitution is finally realized,” Rubio said as the bill was unveiled. “Seventy years after this dark chapter in human history, the restitution of Jewish communal, private and heirless property in Central and Eastern Europe, illegally confiscated by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II, remains a largely unresolved issue and a source of lasting pain for many Holocaust survivors and their heirs. American leadership in addressing this injustice is vital, which is precisely what this legislation will provide. I join Senator Baldwin in pressing for swift passage of this measure.”
“We urgently need an improved public accounting of other countries’ efforts to address Holocaust-era property restitution issues,” said Baldwin. “Tragically, we are losing survivors every day, and it is my sincere hope that this legislation, by shining a spotlight and solidifying this issue as an American foreign policy priority, will spur action in countries that are falling short of their obligations, ultimately resulting in a measure of justice for these individuals who have waited far too long.”
The bill won the support of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), J Street, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), B’nai B’rith International, HIAS refugee assistance organization, Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the Jewish Home and Care Center Foundation in Milwaukee.
“Holocaust-era property restitution provides a measure of justice to victims and their families, and to surviving Jewish communities, for the violation of their basic human rights,” said Abraham Biderman, the co-chairman of the WJRO’s executive committee. “The JUST Act would encourage countries around the globe to live up to the existing international consensus they endorsed in 2009.”