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Europe

New rules for restoring stolen property to Nazi victims

European leaders have agreed to a uniform set of guidelines for making restitution to the heirs of Holocaust victims whose property was seized by the Nazis. It's the first international agreement of its kind.

The Auschwitz concentration camp

43 countries have agreed on the new guidelines

Germany and 42 other countries have agreed to a new system of guidelines for making restitution for Jewish-owned property stolen by the Nazis during World War II.

The non-binding agreement, signed by 43 countries in Prague on Wednesday, is the first set of international guidelines addressing the restitution of real estate seized from Jews between 1933 and 1945.

Under the new recommendations, countries should compensate victims or their heirs for property that cannot be returned. If no heir comes forward, a fund should be established. The agreement also said that heirs wishing to claim confiscated real estate should be given free access to all relevant archives.

Time for action

Children at Auschwitz

Many Holocaust survivors live at or below the poverty level

Stuart Eizenstat, a special adviser for Holocaust issues to US President Barack Obama, urged the countries involved to act immediately, as many Holocaust survivors desperately need the money.

"Of the 500,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide, at least half live at or below the poverty level," Eizenstat said.

According to a study by US economist Sidney Zabludoff, the collective wealth of European Jews prior to the Holocaust was between 8.3 and 12.4 billion euros, about 145 billion euros in today's economy.

More than sixty-five years after the end of the Second World War, many countries have yet to make restitution for properties that were either stolen or purchased at artificially low prices from Jews during the war.

About six million Jews were systematically killed by Nazis during the Holocaust.

Author: Sarah Harman (dpa/AP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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