Lithuania sticking by its compensation plan

NEW YORK (JTA) — Lithuania will not amend its plan to compensate the loss of Jewish property seized during World War II, its justice minister said.

Jewish organizations have criticized the Baltic republic’s plan as representing a "mere fraction" of the properties’ value.

"It is very hard, if not impossible, to restore all property rights after more than half a century, a war and two occupations," the minister, Remigijus Simasius, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

"Most of the Jewish population was killed, their ancestors scattered around the world, and many properties do not have legitimate owners," he said, referring to buildings that were once owned by Jews but were not inherited by relatives because of the war.

Under the plan, which must be approved by parliament, Lithuania will pay 128 million litas, or $53 million, to the republic’s 5,000 Jews. Part of the payment will include the return of two buildings, though most of compensation will consist of cash payments.

Negotiations on the package lasted nearly a decade. Payments are expected to begin in 2011, with compensation for property the following year. A new nongovernmental organization will distribute the funds over several years.

Simon Gurevichius, executive director of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, said the plan is "insufficient and unacceptable."

"Jewish communal property has to be returned, just like this was done with property of other communities, including the Catholic Church," he told AP.

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