Last update – 10:19 05/07/2007
Holocaust claims group to detail real estate holdings it controls
By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the body that represents world Jewry in negotiations for compensation for Holocaust survivors and their heirs, has decided to disclose the details of the real estate assets it holds and will present a list of said assets during a conference Sunday in New York City.

The real estate held by the organization consists of property left unsold by Holocaust victims who had no legal inheritors at the time of their deaths. According to German law, the conference has the right to receive property assets of Holocaust survivors who lack inheritors to execute their wills.

Assessments performed by the conference have determined that they hold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of real estate holdings in what was once East Germany.

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In recent years, the conference has sold billions of dollars worth of property of Holocaust survivors, and has utilized the sales to fund organizations that give aid to Holocaust survivors and provide Holocaust education.

Since the real estate sales began, the conference has refused to disclose details of the property in its possession. The formal explanation given by the conference for their prior refusal to disclose its holdings is that disclosure could harm their chances of selling the holdings at the highest possible values.

Martin Stern, an Israeli-British businessman who was one of the leaders of the struggle to bring disclosure of the conference’s real estate holdings, said on Wednesday that there is also a need to disclose holdings sold by the conference since 1994, arguing that it is the only way to know if sales were carried out according to the letter of the law.

Accountants for the conference until recently supported the policy of non-disclosure, but in recent weeks have announced that norms of disclosure require that they publish their holdings on a yearly basis.

Haaretz has learned that the accountants’ request for disclosure was met with opposition in the conference, but was eventually approved as a matter of policy.

The list of assets disclosed in the organizations yearly assessments will be presented to the directorate of the conference this Sunday in New York City.