Compensation/Restitution Eastern Europe
Czech Republic

UPDATE-Looted Artwork: Deadline Abolished; Claims Can be Filed Indefinitely

A number of Jewish communal properties have been returned and there was a limited private property claims process. A Holocaust Fund has provided compensation to foreign nationals otherwise not eligible to claim property under Czech restitution law.

In 1998, a government commission, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky, was formed to “gather…facts and documentation of Jewish property confiscated by the German occupation organs.”

Communal Property

* Pursuant to various government decrees, as well as the work of the Rychetsky Commission, some 200 properties have been transferred to Jewish communities, including a number of communal properties owned by the Prague community.

Private Property
* Private property restitution laws required Czech citizenship and permanent residence in the country.The filing deadline expired December 1992 and it is unlikely the claims period will be reopened, as the government maintains most private property claims have been resolved, in spite of complaints by many U.S. citizens who had encountered problems with their claims.

* Former Owners of Agricultural Land: In 2000, the Czech Parliament passed a law enabling claimants who have Czech citizenship to approach the current owner of the property. If the owner is not ready or willing to return the property, the claimant can attempt resolution through the courts. In complicated cases, the Commission recommends hiring a Czech law firm.

Heirless Property
* Rychetsky Commission recommendations led to the Endowment Fund for Victims of the Holocaust (EFVH) to “mitigate certain property wrongs” during the Nazi occupation.The government allocated 300 million Czech kronas ($7.5 million) to the Fund:

* “Symbolic” payments were made to Holocaust survivors deprived of their property. This became the compensation program for non-citizens who had their property confiscated during the war, but weren’t eligible to claim under the Czech restitution laws. 516 payments were made to beneficiaries in 27 countries totaling over $4 million. This program is now closed.

* The remainder of the EFVH fund is dedicated to Jewish community projects.
For further information, please contact:

Ms. Jarmila Neumannova, Executive Director Endowment Fund for Victims of the Holocaust
Legerova 22/1854, 120 00, Praha 2, Czech Republic
Tel.: 420-224-261-615
Fax:420-224-262-563
E-mail: neumannova@fondholocaust.cz
Internet: www.fondholocaust.cz
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Looted Artwork:
Deadline Abolished; Claims Can be Filed Indefinitely

Following efforts by the Claims Conference and World Jewish Restitution Organization, the Czech lower house of Parliament has passed a bill that abolishes the December 31, 2006 deadline for filing claims for artworks and cultural objects looted during the Shoah. Under this bill, claims may be filed indefinitely. Taking a prominent role in this effort was the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, led by Tomas Kraus.

The claims process in the Czech Republic was established by a 2000 law permitting applicants of any nationality to claim art that was stolen from Jews between September 29, 1938 and May 8, 1945 and that is currently in Czech state collections. Since the law was passed, approximately 20,000 objects in Czech collections have been identified as having been obtained by the Nazis, but only about 500 have been returned.

The bill extending the deadline must still be approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Vaclav Klaus to take effect, which is anticipated to occur soon. The Claims Conference and World Jewish Restitution Organization have been pressing the Czech government for some time to extend the claims deadline.

The Czech government recently agreed to extend funding for the Documentation Centre of Property Transfers of Cultural Assets of WW II Victims, which researches the provenance of artworks and identifies Nazi-stolen art.

For further information, contact the Czech Ministry of Culture. A list of artworks identified as confiscated by the Nazis is located on its website at www.restitution-art.cz.