Senate resolution on restitution planned

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators plan to urge countries involved in the Holocaust to enact restitution legislation.

A planned resolution is being drafted by Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Gordon Smith (D-Ore.).

The resolution will call for “the convening of an international intergovernmental conference to focus on the remaining steps necessary to secure restitution and compensation of Holocaust-era assets,” Nelson said at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. The hearing was called to consider a bill aimed at reopening Holocaust-era insurance claims.

That bill, initiated last year in the U.S. House of Representatives, would effectively reopen a process that was to have been closed last year by the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims.

The bill is backed by a number of U.S. survivor groups who say the ICHEIC process was compromised by involving insurance companies in its deliberations and did not adequately address insurance claims. The groups want to return the matter to the courts.

A host of major Jewish groups have joined the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, the Claims Conference, the U.S. State Department and the German government in opposing the legislation, saying that upending a process that was to have resolved the issue would endanger other restitution negotiations.

Both sides were represented at the hearing, which at times became emotional.

Nelson and other senators did not appear committed to adopting the House bill. The non-binding resolution he proposed, however, would address one of the sharpest criticisms of ICHEIC and other claims negotiating bodies: that terms with some eastern European nations, particularly Poland, have not been adequately negotiated.

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