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Italy to Return Looted Gold to Trieste Jewish Community

Italy will return gold, jewelry and other valuables plundered by the Nazis from Jews in northeastern Italy during World War II, according to a law passed this week in Rome.

The Italian Treasury Ministry announced Wednesday that parliament had given final approval to a bill sponsored by Treasury Minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi to hand over the contents of five sacks of valuables discovered in a Treasury vault earlier this year.

The sacks contain jewelry, precious stones, watches, coins, silver cutlery and other objects, personal items, gold and even gold teeth that were looted from Jews at the Nazi death camp of San Saba, near Trieste.

They soon will be handed over to the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, the umbrella body of Italian Jews, which will in turn give them to the Jewish community of Trieste.

Tullia Zevi, president of the union, expressed appreciation for “the correctness, the timeliness and the speed” of the Parliament. “I hope that this example will be followed by other countries.”

A Treasury Ministry statement said that the law “is of great moral significance and puts our country among the first to take legal steps to fulfill a duty of civility and solidarity towards the Jewish communities.”

Claims for Holocaust compensation by the Trieste Jewish community, backed by a campaign last January in the local Trieste newspaper, prompted a government investigation into what had happened to the possessions of Trieste-area Jews whom had been sent to San Saba.

A commission established that the goods had belonged to Jews killed or interned in San Saba, the only Nazi death camp on Italian soil.

The investigation revealed that the plundered treasure was taken to Klagenfurt, in Austria, by the retreating Germans at the end of the war, where it was hidden in the cellars of the local Nazi chief.

After the war, the valuables were brought back to Trieste by the Allies, but only a small fraction was claimed by surviving Jews.

The rest was deposited in a Trieste bank vault and eventually sent to the Treasury in Rome for safekeeping in 1962.

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