Criticism of French Government Mounting for Inaction in Restoring Jewish Property
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Criticism of French Government Mounting for Inaction in Restoring Jewish Property

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Sharp criticism of the failure of the French Government to restore to the rightful owners, property seized by the Germans and the Vichy regime under racial and other discriminatory laws was voiced today in Le Populaire, organ of the French Socialist Party.

An article entitled “Ordinance of Disappointed Hopes” points out that the legislation for the restoration of confiscated property issued by the French authorities looks good in principle, but in practice it has given the Jews very little relief. The Government, the article charges, has taken no steps to tackle the major aspects of the problem. Each day that passes makes the recovery of property more difficult and more doubtful, the paper emphasizes.

The delay, Le Populaire continues, is also increasing the hardships of Jews who have been economically uprooted and cannot even begin to reorganize their lives. The restoration of property would take thousands off relief rolls and enable them to help less fortunate Jews, it argues. It also charges local authorities with moving very slowly in granting to Jews the authorization to resume business activities. Numerous cases are reported of delays of several weeks in registering with the tribunal of commerce and the police headquarters.

“The victims of ordinances and decrees of spoliation still have to seek means for resuming possession of what never ceased to belong to them,” the paper writes. “They are tossed desperately in a morass of procedure. They encounter retainers of their property who, instead of discreetly vanishing, raise obstacles.”


Emphasizing that the government delay has been the cause of considerable concern to the Jewish community, the paper estimates that over one-third of the adult Jews who survived persecution in France are now entirely dependent on relief and have no control over their property. It cites the following facts:

1. On October 16, the French Government issued an ordinance authorizing the Administration of Domains to restore property still in its possession to the Jewish owners. Most of the property which came into the hands of this government agency under Vichy measures had long since been disposed of, and the actual relief afforded by this decree is slight.

2. On November 15, another government ordinance ordered the restitution to Jews of properties and funds still in the possession of the provisional administrators appointed by Vichy’s Commissariate for Jewish Affairs. Most of this property, too, was sold long ago. There, too, relief for Jews was almost negligible.

3. Another ordinance of the same date provided that Jews and others who were forced to leave their homes in connection with the war, or under duress, have the right to reclaim them. The ordinance, however, specified certain categories of tenants who could not be dispossessed. These exceptions cover at least 10,000 to 25,000 Jewish homes in Paris alone. It requires court action and cumbersome procedure to regain apartments and there are very few successful actions. The police and judicial authorities are in practice very reluctant to evict non-Jewish tenants to make room for Jews.

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