Thursday, April 15, 2010

Israel seeks heirs of early Zionists

They were the early adopters of the Zionist dream: Jews who invested in pre-state Palestine but didn’t survive the Holocaust. They left behind cash, stocks, real estate and objects of art worth an estimated quarter of a billion dollars. Perhaps better late than never, Israel is now launching a search across North America to find their heirs and make restitution.

There are some 55,000 unclaimed accounts and properties, including abandoned buildings and fallow land. Unclaimed assets will eventually be used to support Holocaust survivors and honor the victims.

“What we want people to do is go onto the Web-site and see if there’s someone who’s a relative, and submit a claim,” explained Jeremy Ruden, a spokesman for the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets LTD, which was founded in 2005 at the direction of the Israeli government. A number of members of the company’s board of directors are survivors themselves.

“We do our own research, depending on what records are still available.” he said. “Did this person have family? Did they have brothers or sisters? We want to give this to the rightful owners.”

The Web-site for claims is www.hashava.org.il/eng. Its name translates in English to “return.” A list of all the unclaimed assets is online, though it is short on details in order to minimize fraud and illegitimate claims. Specific locations of properties are not provided, nor are details about art objects or unclaimed accounts. Potential heirs can enter the first and last names, as well as towns of origin of Holocaust victims.

“There are some prime properties that are just abandoned,” said Ruden. “They haven’t been used. There are places in Rishon Letzion, Haderah, Tel Aviv. All over the place.” (Source: The Jewish Star)

Click here to read the entire article.

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