(JTA) — Croatia will give land and an office building in Zagreb collectively valued at about $4 million to the city’s Jewish community as restitution for property expropriated during World War II.
According to the World Jewish Restitution Organization, the community will receive a six-story building and a surrounding land parcel owned by the government in the central part of the capital to replace a building once owned by the local Jewish burial society.
The Nazi-allied government confiscated the original building during the war and it was nationalized by the Communist government.
The income from the property will help to fund the operation of the Zagreb Jewish community’s senior-care facility and other communal programs.
“This is a long-awaited, but important first step in addressing the legacy of the Holocaust in Croatia and in ensuring that the Jewish community can continue to revitalize itself in a democratic Croatia,” Daniel Mariaschin, head of the WJRO negotiating team and executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, said in a news release issued by the WJRO.
The WJRO’s chair of operations, Gideon Taylor, said his group welcomed the decision. He added, “We ask that the government build on this positive action by returning additional properties to the Jewish community and providing restitution for private and heirless Jewish-owned properties.”
In 1997, the Zagreb Jewish Community filed a claim for the return of the original building, which was built in 1927 by the Jewish burial society.
Croatia’s Jewish communities submitted claims for 135 communal properties under Croatia’s 1996 restitution law, but only 15 non-cemetery properties have been returned, according to the WRJO, which noted that the country’s restitution law does not apply to property seized during the Holocaust or allow claims by citizens of most foreign countries. Croatia also has not provided restitution for heirless Jewish-owned property confiscated during the Holocaust.
Before World War II, more than 25,000 Jews lived in what is now Croatia; about 6,000 survived. Today, some 2,000 Jews live in Croatia, mostly in Zagreb.