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Slovak Jews, Government Far Apart on Accord for Nazi-seized Property

August 8, 2002
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The Slovak Jewish community is increasingly skeptical that it will reach an agreement with the government on compensation for property seized by the Nazis before next month’s general elections.

Both the Jewish community and the state had been hoping to reach agreement this summer in time for payments to be made before the Sept. 20 vote.

But with just six weeks left, their differences remain unresolved.

Jozef Weiss, deputy chairman of the community, told JTA that the community is now proposing that the government pay out $18.6 million, which represents 10 percent of the estimated value of confiscated Jewish property after World War II.

Experts assess the value of the property at the start of the war at $550 million and around $186 million, about one-third of that, by the end of the war.

But Peter Miklosi, assistant to Pal Csaky, the deputy prime minister heading government efforts to draw up a draft solution on compensation, said the proposed offer is to pay out $6.6 million. That offer will be presented to the government for consideration by the end of next week.

And he insists the government is committed to reaching an agreement before the end of its term.

The offer falls far short of the Jewish community’s expectations.

“We won’t accept that offer unless it is clear that it is just an initial payout, and the new government will allocate the rest of the sum we are seeking,” Weiss said.

Around 70,000 Slovak Jews were deported to concentration camps during World War II and killed under the government of Jozef Tiso, who had formed a Nazi puppet state.

A Catholic priest, Tiso was tried and executed after the war as a Nazi collaborator, traitor and war criminal.

Today Slovakia has approximately 4,000 Jews, most of them elderly.

Weiss accused the government of delaying, complaining that the talks already had been going on for three years.

“When we last met we expected we would be ironing out technical details about how and when the payments would be made,” he said. “We didn’t expect to go back to the beginning that was an unpleasant surprise.”

Miklosi said the process has been hindered by issues such as the government’s severe lack of funds, disagreement among the Jewish communities and a reluctance among some members of the public to use public money to compensate Jews.

“I don’t think we could have settled this complex issue any sooner, as there have been many hurdles to overcome, including a lack of government funds,” he said. “While we want to deal with this issue sensitively, we don’t want to provoke a wave of antipathy against Jews.”

Miklosi said that if agreement could not be reached before the election, it would be up to the new government to resolve the issue.

Weiss pointed out that the Jewish community so far has not staked any compensation claim for nearly 250,000 acres of land that was originally owned by Slovak Jews but which now forms around one-quarter of state-managed property in the country’s land fund.

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