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History’s Largest Theft: Many Countries Haven’t Yet Returned Stolen Jewish Assets

The Holocaust ended over 70 years ago yet the lion’s share of Jewish property robbed from Jews during the Holocaust remains illegally in the hands of others. This statement came from a study ordered by the European Institute for the Heritage of the Holocaust which will be brought before an international summit in the European Parliament in Brussels this Wednesday under the auspices of the EU president, Antonio Tajani. The summit will call upon EU agencies to support finding solutions to return stolen Jewish assets.

This study being the most comprehensive to date, examines the legislation the 46 signatories to the Terezin Declaration passed to facilitate the return of Jewish assets stolen in the Holocaust. It emphasizes how each country fulfilled (or didn’t fulfill) its obligation to return or compensate for real estate or businesses confiscated from Jewish communities and other persecuted parties.

The study shows that many Western European countries fulfilled to a great degree the principles outlined in the Terezin Declaration but many eastern European countries from the former Communist bloc and especially Poland, still have not yet fulfilled their obligations. These countries made no effort to legislate laws requiring the return of stolen Jewish assets and most of those confiscated properties have yet to be returned.

The Terezin Declaration expressed the widely accepted principle that no country should profit from assets that have no inheritors and those assets should be used to give special support to Holocaust survivors. That being said, most of the properties in Eastern Europe countries that have ‘no inheritors’ (because they were killed in mass exterminations) were nationalized by those countries and no attempt was made to return them. This is the greatest theft in history.


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