Securing Restitution for Canadian Holocaust Survivors
Canada has played a leading role in the global effort to secure restitution for survivors, far too many of whom live in poverty.

Key Points

  • Countless survivors of the Holocaust have not been compensated for their losses, a particularly troubling situation given that tens of thousands of those still alive currently live in poverty.
  • Canada has played a leading role in the global effort to secure restitution for survivors, a continuing government priority backed by non-partisan consensus.
  • Canadian diplomats should continue to forcefully encourage their European counterparts to pass laws that will provide restitution and justice for the victims of the Holocaust.
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Innumerable Jewish homes, businesses and properties seized by the Nazis and their collaborators during WWII were never recovered, and countless survivors have not been compensated for their losses. In many European countries, laws allowing for restitution are non-existent or woefully inadequate. Poland, for example, has no restitution law for private real property that was confiscated in the Holocaust and later nationalized by the Communist regime. This situation is particularly concerning given that, of the several hundred thousand survivors around the world today, tens of thousands live in poverty.

In June 2015, CIJA mobilized a delegation of Jewish community leaders and Holocaust survivors, affiliated with Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, to advocate for restitution for Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe. Working in concert with the World Jewish Restitution Organization, CIJA’s delegation met with diplomatic representatives from the European Union, Romania, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Czech Republic and Serbia. CIJA later engaged the ambassadors of Poland, Latvia, Hungary and Bulgaria as well.

This ongoing campaign is based on the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust-Era Assets, which was approved by 46 countries (including Canada) and calls for just and fair solutions regarding the status of private, communal and heirless property stolen from Jews during World War II. It specifically calls for relevant governments to “make every effort to provide for the restitution of former Jewish communal and religious property,” and it advocates for expeditious compensation for those who lost property during the Holocaust and their heirs.

Accordingly, in response to CIJA’s request, the Government of Canada directed Canadian diplomats in relevant countries to raise the restitution issue with implicated governments in early 2015. Strong statements of support from all three major federal parties on this issue affirm and underscore that Canada’s call for restitution is backed by a non-partisan consensus. We are heartened by the government’s renewed commitment, as articulated in the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2016.

Approximately 40,000 Holocaust survivors built new lives in Canada. Far too many of those alive today live in poverty. Securing restitution for survivors and their families is a continuing priority for Canada, which has played a leading role in this global effort. Canadian diplomats should continue to forcefully encourage their European counter- parts to pass laws that will provide restitution and justice for the victims of the Holocaust.

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