Vienna (Oct. 11)
Legal action that may cost the Roumanian government a huge legacy because of its failure to abolish anti-Semitism was begun here today by the relatives of the late Jacques Elias, a Roumanian Jewish banker and industrialist. Elias, at the time of his death before the War, was the wealthiest man in Roumania, and left the bulk of his fortune to the Roumanian government for the establishment of a Roumanian Academy of Science whose chief purpose should be to rid the country of anti-Semitism, particularly among the intellectuals and students.
Now it is learned that Elias’ relatives have instituted legal action in the Roumanian courts to obtain the return of the legacy on the ground that the principal condition on which the government was named the legatee has not been complied with. The renewal of anti-Semitic agitation and disturbances in the last six months determined Elias’ surviving relatives to appeal to the courts for the cancellation of the legacy on the plea that the country has not been freed of anti-Semitism and hence the provisions of the legacy have not been carried out. Vienna members of the Elias family are also consulting counsel with a view to submitting a similar claim to the Roumanian government.
On the basis of the pre-War lei the Elias estate at the time of his death was estimated to be in the neighborhood of $100,000,000. As a result of the tremendous deflation in the lei since the close of the War, the estate is now worth less than a million dollars. As a result of this falling off in the estate’s value it has been the subject of litigation on a previous occasion. In addition to the money he bequeathed for the Academy of Science, Elias made the Academy the trustee for a foundation, the proceeds of which were to go to the Sephardic Jewish community of Vienna. In view of the tremendous post-War deflation in the value of the estate the Academy declined to pay the Sephardic community more than a negligible sum as compared with the amount specified in Elias will. The matter was finally settled out of court when the Academy agreed to pay 60,000 schillings, in addition to costs, to the Sephardic Jewish community.
The claim of the Elias family is strengthened by the fact that last July, at the height of the anti-Semitic disturbances, the Roumanian Academy of Science in Saskut, Moldavia, was badly damaged by fire. It was this building that was erected with funds from the Elias legacy.