French ask for Shoah compensation

PARIS, April 22 (JTA) — Compensation claims by Holocaust survivors and their families against the French government have doubled over the course of the past year, reaching tens of millions of dollars, according to the latest report by a government commission. Set up in 1999, the Commission for the Compensation for Victims of Spoilation, or CIVS, is charged with investigating compensation claims resulting from anti-Semitic legislation enacted by the collaborationist Vichy regime during World War II, including the confiscation of property and the freezing of Jewish bank accounts. The CIVS followed the work of the Matteoli Commission, which was set up by the previous socialist government in 1995. For the first time since the war, that commission established the role played by the Vichy regime in the confiscation of Jewish property. In his annual report to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the CIVS chairman, Pierre Drai, wrote that the CIVS had made an average of 250 recommendations per month for compensation over the course of 2002. As of March 31, the commission had received 14,400 claims, from which it had made 5,600 compensation recommendations to the government. The claims have reached approximately $94 million, of which the state is responsible for around 95 percent of the amount, or $91 million, to compensate for “material confiscations” such as business properties and apartments. The remainder of the amount was accounted for by claims against banks for Jewish accounts frozen by the Vichy regime, the report added. The government has accepted responsibility for compensating survivors and their families, a policy that has continued since President Jacques Chirac formally accepted the state’s responsibility for Vichy crimes in 1995. The filing date for claims against banks formally ended on Jan. 18, but Drai said that “it was impossible today to predict when the work of the CIVS would come to an end.” Moreover, the rate of new claims is still climbing, with 393 recommendations made in March alone. The CIVS operates an international hotline for claims and maintains close links with the government-sponsored French Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, which is chaired by Simone Weil, a Holocaust survivor and former president of the European Parliament. Such relations with Jewish organizations are vital, Drai said, because “the work of the CIVS required an important human dimension in light of the need to receive claims from people who were carrying heavy emotional scars from the past.” The CIVS hotline number for information on claims for confiscated property is 00-800-2000-4000. The commission also operates an English-language information service through its Web site, www.civs.gouv.fr.

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