Rome Government Prepares New Decrees for Restoration of Confiscated Jewish Property

A series of decrees providing for restoration of property confiscated by the Fascists on racial and political grounds and indemnities for the victims of fascist discriminations is being prepared by the Italian Government for promulgation at the earliest possible date, it was learned today.

A special commission is working in the Ministry of Justice with the advice and cooperation of Allied Military Government experts on a comprehensive, detailed law covering all aspects of this highly complicated problem. It is considered likely that the first of the decrees may be issued in about six weeks, but the complete legislation may have to await promulgation until the entire country is liberated.

Under a decree of January 20, 1944, full civil and political rights were restored to Jews and others deprived of them on racial and political grounds. The same decree annulled all fascist discriminatory measures and cancelled fascist revocation of citizenships carried out on those grounds. A previous decree by the Badoglio Government had ordered reinstatement of all those ousted from public and quasi-public posts because of race or politics. Ministers of the Bonomi Cabinet have issued a series of orders reinstating many Jews who formerly held higher posts. A number in lower bracket jobs have not yet been reinstated, however, because ministries are still operating only on a partial basis.

Generally, as far as civil and political rights go, all discriminations against Jews have been removed in liberated territory. The Government seems genuinely anxious to do its utmost to repair the wrongs of the fascist regime. The property restoration question, however, is one of the thorniest and most complex. Actually when the Government was still in the south a decree was prepared and signed by the King but never promulgated because further liberation of territory revealed a situation entirely unforeseen when the measure was drafted. The issue then was more one of principle than reality since Jews resident in Italy south of Rome hardly numbered more than 2,000. It became a more active issue with the liberation of Rome and will become a more important problem as the liberated area extends to the northern cities, where the bulk of Italian Jews resided.

The measures now being worked out provide, first, for restoration of real property to the former owners, and , second, compensation for other property confiscated by the Fascists under discriminatory legislation. Parenthetically, it should be noted that when Rome was liberated it was found that Mussolini had decreed an order empowering prefects and local fascist authorities to strip Jews even of personal clothing. A third aspect is reinstatement of pensions cut off under the fascist anti-Jewish laws and adjustment of back salaries of ousted Jewish civil servants. Finally there is the question of compensating those who acquired formerly Jewish property honestly and in good faith. This involves a large percentage of the present owners of former Jewish property.

As an interim measure to aid Jews temporarily, Lt. Col. Charles A. Poletti, regional Allied commissioner, has appointed a commission to investigate property confiscations and to record Jewish claims. In practice, this commission has succeeded in securing possession for several hundred Jewish families of their former homes and apartments in Rome. The list of claims will be turned over by the commission to the Italian Government when it assumes authority in the Rome area on August 15.

One aspect of the problem which is concerning drafters of the decrees is the protection of the rights of those racial and political refugees who left Italy, some of whom were deprived of Italian citizenship while others acquired other nationality. The Government is anxious to give them full opportunity to file claims and obtain return of their property and whatever compensation they would be entitled to if they had remained here.

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