PRAGUE (May. 27)
The Czech government has agreed to compensate Slovak Jews for gold that was taken from them during World War II.
Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus’ announcement last week overrides the Czech National Bank’s earlier decision to not offer any compensation.
The Czech Finance Ministry must now determine the amount to be given, and whether it will go to an organization or to individuals.
Jozef Weiss, director of the Office of the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia, said “The problem could be solved soon if there is good will on both sides.”
The compensation, which should not exceed $3.3 million, could be used to support the 1,200 Slovak Jews who survived the Holocaust, he said.
Before the war, some 91,000 Jews lived in Slovakia, which was then part of Czechoslovakia, and about 3,000 live there now.
Tomas Kraus, general director of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, said the money should also help Jews who lived in Slovakia during the war, but now reside in the Czech Republic.
The gold in question was seized by the Nazi puppet government and, after the war, passed hands to the communist regime, which deposited the treasure in the State Bank of Czechoslovakia in 1953.
Last December, the Czech National Bank said it would not compensate Slovak Jews because it did not have the gold in question.
Bank spokesman Pavel Palivec said at the time that the Slovak government had held the gold since 1993, when Czechoslovakia split into separate countries and the assets of the state bank were divided between them.
The Slovak government, however, insisted that the gold was kept separate and therefore not included in the division of assets.
Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar vowed to support the Slovak Jewish community in its push for compensation from the Czech National Bank.