The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) last week announced the publication of an extensive report presenting a historical analysis and partial list of cultural objects looted from Jews and others by the Croatian fascists – the Ustaše – during the Holocaust and after World War II, that were nationalized by the Communist government and distributed to Croatian state institutions.
The report was completed in 2020, based on the archives of the KOMZA (Commission for the Gathering and Protection of Cultural Monuments and Antiquities) that were made accessible the previous year by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia. It was researched and produced by Dr. Naida-Michal Brandl, Chair of the Judaic Studies Program at the University of Zagreb. Funding for the report was provided by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference). It lists more than a thousand objects that were taken from Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and families.
The report is now being released in cooperation with the Croatian government. It was originally scheduled to be released in 2020 but was delayed partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 earthquake in Zagreb. The Croatian Ministry of Culture has recently established an expert group on provenance research. A process for claims has yet to be established.
“This report is being released just weeks before the international Terezin Declaration Conference on Holocaust-era assets, and will serve as a powerful resource for Holocaust survivors and their families and the Croatian Jewish community who seek to pursue possible claims in the future,” said Gideon Taylor, WJRO’s Chair of Operations, and Mark Weitzman, its Chief Operating Officer.
“We are glad that the Croatian Ministry of Culture is doing the right thing by jointly releasing this report after many years of discussions. Although it has been nearly seventy-eight years after the Holocaust, it is particularly appropriate for Croatia to act now since Croatia is scheduled to assume the presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) with its 35 member countries in 2023,” the WJRO officials said.
“We welcome the release of this extensive historical report that hopefully will provide a pathway for Holocaust survivors, their families, and others to file claims for cultural objects that were looted during the Holocaust and its aftermath. We want to thank Dr. Naida-Michal Brandl for all her hard work on this report and hope that this information will become a helpful resource to provide a measure of justice and assistance to Holocaust survivors and their heirs,” said Daniel S. Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International CEO.
Nina Obuljen Koržinek, the Republic of Croatia’s Minister of Culture and Media, stated that “Croatia welcomes the release of this report and shares the wish to provide Holocaust survivors and their heirs with a fair measure of justice. By deciding in 2019 to open to the public and digitize the KOMZA Collections, we wanted to provide open access to researchers. We believe that at this stage, the priorities should be thorough provenance research allowing indisputable attribution of looted property to their rightful owners, as well as improvement to the legislative framework.”
Dr. Ognjen Kraus, President of the Jewish Community of Zagreb and the Coordinating Committee of the Jewish Communities in the Republic of Croatia, stated: “We welcome this release as a first step that can hopefully lead to further steps that might help resolve the long-standing issues of restitution with Croatia.”