One percent of the shares of Bank Leumi, some $57 million,
are in the names of Jews killed in the Holocaust.
The figured appeared in a report issued last week by
Israel’s Custodian General, according to Ha’aretz. The money has its origins in
an 1899 initiative by Theodor Herzl to raise money for the Jewish Colonial
Trust, the financial arm of the World Zionist Organization. Many Eastern
European Jews bought shares, and in 1902 the Jewish Colonial Trust established
the Anglo-Palestine Bank, which later became Bank Leumi.
In recent years Israel has been shaken by revelations that
state institutions concealed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of
assets belonging to Holocaust victims.
By law, the Bank Leumi shares are supposed to be transferred
to the state-run Organization for the Restitution of Assets of Holocaust
Victims. The organization then must decide what to do with the shares. Some
argue for selling the shares and splitting the money among needy Holocaust survivors in Israel for immediate aid and setting aside a reserve for any heirs to
the shares that can be found.
Information about this money and other unclaimed Holocaust-era assets in Israel is available at www.hashava.org.il.
The debate in Israel about unclaimed Holocaust-era assets
mirrors that surrounding the Claims Conference, which allocates some $90
million annually from unclaimed Holocaust-era assets to Jewish
groups and projects worldwide that benefit Holocaust victims