Last-ditch attempt to trace heirs to assets

A list of thousands of properties in East Germany that were confiscated by the Nazis was published this week in a final attempt to trace heirs.

The New York-based Claims Conference, the body which distributes restitution funds to Holocaust survivors, has set aside £43 million (50 million euros) to compensate descendants of the original owners.

Its action follows concerted pressure from the Board of Deputies and others to reopen applications for claims.
The online list published by the conference runs to more than 1,400 pages and contains 45,000 names and addresses.

Claimants will have until the end of December 2014 to make an application to the fund.

Jeffrey Gruder QC, who authored a report in 2010 for the Board on the issue, said that the publication meant that “the Claims Conference have listened to the Board of Deputies and they are to be complimented for this”.
He added: “Many heirs of East German property owners will now receive some compensation which was not available to them until this change.”

In 1992, unclaimed properties which had been seized by the Nazis were transferred by the German government to the Claims Conference.

The Conference has since used around £1 billion from the sale to fund welfare programmes for Holocaust survivors.
The charity also
distributed more than £550 million in compensation to heirs who came forward before its 2004 deadline for claims, although it briefly reopened applications later.

London and Jerusalem-based Martin Stern, who has campaigned for years for publication of the list and has just found two relatives on it, said he was happy at its release.

But he added; “I do not understand how 50 million euros is meant to cover the total of returning properties to heirs.”

Last updated: 4:22pm, February 21 2013