(JTA) – Latvia’s parliament passed a bill that facilitates the return of some buildings that were owned by Jewish communities before the Holocaust.
On Thursday, the Saemia approved a measure that is expected to lead to the transfer of at least three building in Riga to the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia as well as two buildings outside the capital, the news agency LETA reported.
The World Jewish Restitution Organization, or WJRO, called the bill, which passed its third and final reading, an “‘important first step in addressing remaining communal property issues.”
Gideon Taylor, the WJRO’s operations chief, said his organization looks forward to seeing the Latvian government “ensure these properties are transferred, and that additional steps are taken to restitute the remaining communal properties.” The group’s statement said an estimated 270 properties have yet to be returned and that U.S. officials were involved in talks that led to the legislation.
With the bill’s passage, the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia is set to launch a special foundation that would be tasked with managing the restituted properties, Dmitrijs Krupnikovs, deputy chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia, told LETA.
The properties to be returned to the Jewish organizations are mostly in poor condition, Krupnikovs said. One of them, in Jurmala, most probably will have to be demolished as it is beyond repair. Restitution would be great from moral perspective, he said, but would be a financial burden on the Jewish community.