PRAGUE (Dec. 17)
Slovak Jews have moved a step closer to receiving compensation for property confiscated by the Nazis.
A commission investigating the issue agreed in a meeting earlier this month to resolve outstanding ownership questions and prepare a list of properties that could qualify for compensation.
The commission, which includes 10 state representatives and 10 Jewish representatives from Slovakia and elsewhere, is chaired by Slovakia’s deputy prime minister, Pal Csaky.
A spokesman for Csaky said the deputy prime minister is pleased with the progress made at the commission’s meeting, its first.
“Csaky’s impression of the meeting was very good because a reasonable agreement was reached quickly on the issue of compensation,” Peter Miklosi said.
The commission is to create a list of properties confiscated from Jewish citizens and establish a foundation to help maintain Jewish cultural heritage sites and compensate individuals.
The foundation will also finance projects aimed at developing current Jewish communities in Slovakia.
There are approximately 4,000 Jews in Slovakia today, most of them elderly.
Researchers from the Slovak Academy of Sciences and the Slovak National Archive will estimate the amount of confiscated property and list properties whose ownership is clear by the end of January.
The commission will meet for a second time in the middle of February and Csaky hopes to present initial recommendations to the government by the middle of next year.
The commission was originally scheduled to meet at the end of September with a view to view to making recommendations to the Slovak Cabinet by the end of this year, but Csaky’s schedule led to a series of delays.
Fero Alexander, executive director of Slovakia’s Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities, expressed disappointment at the delays in setting up the commission.
“This is very much a question of speed,” Alexander said. “Csaky has been very busy and this has caused quite a delay. We hope that these delays will not happen again.”
The parties involved in the negotiations will not speculate on the amounts of money involved in the compensation claim.
The value of qualifying properties is likely to run into millions of dollars, but local Jewish representatives have already conceded that a compromise will have to be reached because the Slovak government lacks the deep pockets necessary to foot the entire bill.
The cash-strapped Central Union has been pushing for a joint commission since 1999, largely because it lacks sufficient resources to maintain hundreds of cemeteries and repair dozens of dilapidated synagogues across Slovakia.