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Hundreds of British Jews may stand to receive surprise inheritances that they never knew existed.

Back in the early 20th century, Jews from across the world invested in Palestine. They put money into Zionist enterprises to develop the infrastructure for a future state, purchase land or deposit money in early Zionist banks. Tragically, many of these idealistic investors died in the Holocaust.

A state-owned Israeli company tasked with transferring the assets to their rightful owners is to start a search for heirs in Britain.

"Statistically, we believe that there may be a lot of heirs in the UK," said Elinor Kroitoru, head of the inheritor tracing division at the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets. "Only a small portion of them arrived in Israel, but many fled to the UK before, during and after the war."

The company, widely known by its shortened Hebrew name, Hashava, which means "restitution", will explain its mission at a public event in London in September. It will place posters in synagogues and recruit Jewish students to help raise awareness of its work. It is budgeting £10,000 for the first month of its campaign.

The idea of the campaign is to prompt people who believe that Holocaust-victim relations may have invested in Palestine to get in contact so that the company can check whether their details match any asset on record. People can also check its website, where there are summaries of the 864 million shekels (£159 million) worth of assets under Hashava's control, and their original owners.

When details do match, Hashava handles all the paperwork, and is entitled by Israeli law to take a commission of up to two per cent, based on a sliding scale of the asset's value.

In the five years since its establishment - during which time it has mostly concentrated its efforts in Israel - the company has arranged for the transfer of 40 million shekels (£7.3 million) to inheritors, and has another 70 million shekels (£12.9 million) awaiting transfer pending necessary rubber stamping by an Israeli court.

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