The Latvian Parliament has passed a new restitution law that will provide reimbursement for immovable properties belonging to Jewish religious and communal organizations before the Soviet occupation of Latvia in June 1940, and Jewish heirless properties which could not be previously returned through denationalization laws.
The law, a result of efforts led by the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) and the local Latvian Jewish community, will provide 40 million euro ($46 million) in funding to be used to revitalize the Latvian Jewish community, provide social and material assistance to Holocaust survivors from Latvia, and preserve the memory of those who perished.
WJRO’s Chair of Operations, Gideon Taylor, welcomed passage of the law, calling it a “meaningful acknowledgement of the unique tragedy that befell Latvian Jewry, and a powerful statement of Latvia’s abiding goodwill to its Jewish Community and to Latvian Holocaust survivors.”
The law, said WJRO Chief Operating Officer Mark Weitzman, demonstrates that even 77 years after the Holocaust, justice is achievable.
“We urge other countries who have not yet done so to follow Latvia’s lead in upholding commitments made under the 2009 Terezin Declaration. We will not stop seeking justice for Holocaust survivors, their families, and Jewish communities,” Weitzman said.
The properties in question were confiscated during the Soviet occupation and could not be restituted because 90 percent of the country’s Jewish community perished at the hands of the Nazis.
“Finalizing this process demonstrates that even 77 years after the end of the Holocaust, it is never too late for justice,” said Arkady Sukharenko, Head of the Latvian Council of Jewish Communities (LCJC).
“For us, the passing of the legislation is just the start of the process,” commented Dmitry Krupnikov, head of the Latvian Jewish Community Restitution Fund (LEKOREF).
“This vital legislation will enable the Latvian Jewish community to continue preservation of our heritage, help elderly Latvian Holocaust survivors, and most importantly, further revitalize the community and build the basis for our community’s future. We look forward to working with our international partners in fulfilling those goals,” he said.
This positive result comes after years of negotiations. While no settlement can ever compensate for the devastation of Latvian Jewry during the Shoah, this legislation will provide some measure of justice and assistance to the community today,” said Daniel S. Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International CEO.
“This has been a decades-long process with considerable challenges and roadblocks along the way. It is to the credit of the Latvian Parliament and Government that it is finally completed, and the future of Jewish communal life will be sustained,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, Director of International Jewish Affairs, American Jewish Committee (AJC).
The law lists approximately 250 properties identified by the Jewish Community of Latvia, including schools, orphanages, hospitals, and cultural houses, along with each of their 2018 cadastral values. The compensation will be paid in ten annual installments from the state budget to the Foundation LEKEROF until 2032.
The law provides funds to be allocated for events and projects of the Jewish Community of Latvia, including the provision of social and material assistance to those victims of the Holocaust who now live outside of Latvia.
Of the 95,000 Jewish who lived in Latvia before World War II, just 9,500 remain today.