Deadline is Fast Approaching on Nazi-era Fund in Czech Republic

Organizers of a Nazi property fund in the Czech Republic have renewed their appeal for claimants to come forward as the application deadline approaches.

The Prague-based Endowment Fund for Victims of the Holocaust said this week that it had received about 190 claims since July, mainly from the United States, Israel and Great Britain.

The fund allows Jews around the world to claim compensation for property seized by the Nazis.

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.

But the team coordinating the fund, which was set up last year by the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities in a joint initiative with the Czech government, is urging others to claim a share of the $2.5 million fund before the Dec. 31 deadline.

“There is very little time left and we would urge people not to postpone their application,” said fund coordinator Jarmila Neumannova.

The compensation payments were made possible by Czech legislators, who last year voted to provide the money for victims of property seizure, including non-Czech citizens, as a humanitarian gesture.

The rate of applications has been increasing in recent weeks after a slow start, organizers said. Currently they are receiving about 20 new claims a week, which will be processed once the deadline passes.

The small but dedicated team, which is handling queries via telephone, e-mail, fax and office visits, said it would provide help to those who are unable to obtain paperwork directly from Czech authorities.

The fund’s project assistant, Lumila Pocova, said the main documents required for applications were the claimant’s birth certificate, the death certificate of the original property owner, if deceased, and an extract from the land register to prove original ownership.

“We can help people even after the deadline with documentation required for applications,” said Pocova. “For example, if people know the exact address of their property we can apply on their behalf for an extract from the land register.”

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 Sept. 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, including 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, all submitted claims will be assessed by the fund’s board, which includes four Czech Jewish representatives, four Czech State officials and a representative of the American-Jewish Committee.

The World Jewish Restitution Organization is also represented on the fund’s supervisory board.

The board’s chairman, Tomas Jelinek, said it would take several months to process all the applications. “We hope to distribute all of the money before Pesach next year,” he added.

Further information about compensation can be obtained from Czech embassies or on the fund’s Internet site at www.fondholocaust.cz.

Claims can also be made in writing to: Endowment Fund for Victims of the Holocaust, P.O. Box 103, 120 21, Prague 2, Czech Republic.

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