Slovak Government Inks Agreement to Pay Holocaust-era Property Claims by Magnus Bennett

The government of Slovakia has signed an agreement to distribute $20 million to the local Jewish community as compensation for Holocaust-era property losses.

Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda and Fero Alexander, the executive chairman of the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities, signed the compensation agreement Wednesday. A new commission will be formed to distribute the funds.

The commission, which will decide how to distribute the money after it starts work early next year, will include four representatives of the Jewish community and three government officials.

In order not to overburden the state budget, the agreement stipulates that the $20 million will be held in the national bank of Slovakia for 10 years, during which time only accrued interest can be withdrawn.

This is expected to provide an estimated $1 million a year in revenues. After 10 years, the initial $20 million compensation payment will be transferred to the Jewish community.

The director of the community, Jozef Weiss, said money would be used to compensate Holocaust survivors, help restore dilapidated cemeteries and synagogues and fund cultural and social programs.

As happened with a similar fund in the Czech Republic, the commission is likely to set a time limit for property loss claims.

Weiss said such payments will “just be symbolic, rather than full compensation for those whose property was confiscated during the war and not returned afterward.”

Slovakia’s Jewish leaders first began negotiating a compensation agreement with state officials four years ago.

“In 1998, we saw it as a good signal that we were not refused right away, but we realized that it would not be a simple process and that it would take a long time,” Weiss said.

The Slovak Jewish community is now shifting its efforts to a different front: Community leaders are trying to get compensation from Germany to reclaim millions of dollars the wartime Slovak government allegedly stole from Jews and paid to the Nazis to deport tens of thousands of Jews to concentration camps.

The community lost its case in a German court earlier this year, but an appeal will be heard in Berlin in January.

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