PRAGUE, June 27 (JTA) — A new property restitution fund in the Czech Republic is offering fresh hope to thousands of Jews around the world who have been unable to claim compensation for the loss of property seized by the Nazis.
The Prague-based Endowment Fund for Victims of the Holocaust is now accepting applications from those seeking restitution from the $2.5 million fund.
Representatives of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, which is operating the fund, said they expect up to 3,000 applications before the Dec. 31 deadline.
The compensation payments were made possible by Czech legislators, who last year voted to provide the money for victims of property seizure as a humanitarian gesture.
Unlike claims made directly to the Czech state, whose own property restitution laws bar claims from non-Czech citizens, the fund will pay out money to people of all nationalities.
Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, said the fund is important for those whose previous bids to gain compensation failed.
“This is very helpful for the descendants of previous owners because they are the ones who don’t have Czech citizenship,” he said.
“This has come 50 years later than it should have, but it is better late than never.”
The terms of the compensation plan state that claimants must establish that the original owner of real estate was the victim of racial persecution by Nazi authorities between September 29, 1938, and May 8, 1945.
The definition of persecution includes people who had to leave what is now the Czech Republic, those who were imprisoned in a concentration camp or ghetto, and those who were forced to remain in hiding to escape imprisonment.
Those entitled to claim are original owners and their rightful successors, which include husbands, wives, children and other descendants.
People who have already received compensation for property loss from another source will not be entitled to claim, but the fund will consider applications from claimants who are still involved in court proceedings.
After the end-of-year deadline has passed, the fund’s officials will assess all the submitted claims before deciding on the size of individual payments.
Fund chairman Tomas Jelinek said he expected many of the estimated 2,000 to 3,000 claims to come from outside the Czech Republic.
Asked what he thought about the fact that it had required a humanitarian gesture from Czech legislators for thousands to qualify for compensation, Jelinek replied, “This is more of a question for the Czech politicians than for us.”