Dutch looking for restitution claimants

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (JTA) — Dutch officials are seeking claimants for a fund established to compensate Jews whose assets in the Netherlands were looted by the Nazis.

Officials met in Washington and New York this week with Jewish organizations involved in restitution efforts in an attempt to let survivors and their heirs know that if they lived in Holland during the Holocaust, they may be entitled to compensation.

The Dutch government, banks, insurance companies and stock exchange have set aside $326.2 million to pay claims.

The compensation plan was launched in the Netherlands late last year, and Dutch embassies around the world are now launching publicity drives to find claimants.

In Prague, for instance, the Dutch Embassy informed the Czech press that brochures and application forms are now available either at their offices or through a Dutch-based Internet site.

The Maror Foundation, an independent body, is responsible for paying the claims.

Maror is a Dutch acronym “signifying moral responsibility for embezzled funds and restoration of justice,” according to foundation materials. It is also the Hebrew word for bitter herbs, which are reminiscent of difficult times.

There were shortcomings in the restitution process, said Maror’s chairman, M.R. van der Heijden, and the Dutch are now recognizing the moral claims of the Jewish community.

The bulk of the fund will be paid to individual claimants. Ten percent will be used for projects to be decided on by the Jewish communities in Holland and Israel. In addition, Maror officials are planning a Jewish humanitarian fund.

To qualify for payments, claimants must be able to prove that:

• they were born before May 8, 1945;

• they resided in the Netherlands at some time between May 10, 1940, and May 8, 1945; and

• they have at least one Jewish parent and two Jewish grandparents on the side of that Jewish parent, or suffered persecution and/or looting in the Netherlands as a result of being Jewish.

Under the terms of the plan, claimants can be children, foster parents or spouses of anyone who meets the basic criteria but who died in May 1945 or after without applying for compensation. The claimant’s current nationality is not relevant.

In the two months since they began operations, Maror officials said, they have made more than 3,000 payments. Each payment totals about $6,000.

Although the Dutch government and the stock exchange settled claims in the 1950s and 1960s, the restitution issue was never fully resolved, the officials said.

After a list of properties confiscated during the Holocaust surfaced several years ago, the local Jewish community formed a council to explore restitution issues once again.

The Jewish community had “more or less closed the books” on restitution, but the discovery of the property list revived old feelings, Michael Gelber, Maror’s executive secretary, said this week.

The Dutch government subsequently worked with the Jewish organizations to reach an agreement, Gelber said.

Last year, the government admitted it should have treated Jewish victims with greater sensitivity and agreed that parts of the restitution process were unjust by modern standards.

Maror expects about 34,000 claims before this year’s Dec. 31 deadline.

Further information about the compensation plan can be found at www.joodsetegoeden.nl.

Application forms can be requested through the Internet site or at Dutch embassies. The forms are available in Dutch, English and Hebrew.

(JTA correspondent Magnus Bennett in Prague contributed to this report.)

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