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Senate passes bill to help Holocaust survivors obtain restitution

Serbia is one of the pioneers in adopting similar law



Zoran Naumović, Attorney at Law, legal counsel of Jewish community of Belgrade





A Terezin Declaration was singed a decade ago, 30 June 2009 by 46 countries, including the Republic of Serbia.


That Declaration was symbolicly adopted in the Terezin (Czech Republic), where were killed and from where were sent to the death camps thousands of European Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution during the Second World War.


It has never happened in the history of civilization that one nation is so systematically and physically destroyed and that today exist a Jewish property that has been taken away from the executed and that now there is no one to return it, because all families have been killed and there are no living successor and descedants.


Wherever the Nazi administration was deceived, there were adopted so-called Nuremberg Laws (over 400 laws and acts) to which the Jewish people were exposed.


That Laws were basis for lists, isolation, physical destruction of Jewish people, also that were basis for  seizure all movable and immovable property.


The Declaration called the signatory countries to concider proposed or other alternative measures at the national level in order to mitigate the effects of the Holocaust and preserve the memory of the history and heritage of the Holocaust, during which three – quarters Europian Jews were destroyed.


One of the aforementioned measures is the returnation of immovable proprety, confiscated during the Holocaust in the period from 1933 to 1945, ie securing the restitution of former Jewish communities and religious property through restitution in nature or through compensation, as well as private immovable property to earlier owners, descedants or followers.


As one of the signatories of the declaration, the Republic of Serbia, in order to act in accordance with the Declaration, adopted in 2016 the Law of the Removal of the consequences of the confiscation of property for Holocaust victims who do not have living legal descedants, which made her the first state in Europe who adopted such a law.


The law allows Jewish municipalities to recover property that is still in the ownership of the Republic of Serbia, which is seized from members of Jewish communities who do not have living legal decedants.


For now, the Reublic of Serbia is one of the few countries that adopted such a law and certainly its law is a pioneer among such laws, and time will show whether our it will become a lighthouse to the other countries.


The United States is one of the signers of the Terzian Declaration and under its influence this Declaration was made, of course with the enormous and immeasurable effect of the World Jewish Congress.


It is important to point out that the United States are in  process of adoption a law called Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act of 2017. The law was recently adopted by the US Senate and it need to pass the Congress, after which it is going to be signed by the President of the United States, when it effectively enters into force and becomes law.


The Serbia has the opportunity to use this international circumstance dimplomatically, since the US law predicts that the States signatories of the Terzic Declaration compile an annual report of the state of human rights, religious freedom, the assessment of national laws in relation to the identification, return and restitution of property seized during the Holocaust, as well as respecting the objectives of the Terzic Declaration by its signatories.


Since we have the opportunity to legally represent the Jewish municipality of Belgrade in the process of restitution of property we were really surprised by finding out the historical data about the suffering of Jews in the Serbia.


Therefore, the Serbian law on the returnation of the mentioned property is especially important for all citizens of Serbia, because it, although partly, is trying to correct the injustice that lasted almost 70 years.


As the Republic of Serbia is one of the few countries that adopted such law, it is necessary to diplomatically use this circumstance in complex international relations.

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