December 20, 2022 — New York
American Jewish Committee (AJC) welcomes Lithuania Parliament (Seimas) adoption of the Good Will Compensation Law, addressing unresolved property restitution claims of Holocaust victims. The legislation was introduced by Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė.
The law, adopted today by a vote of 74 to 6, with two abstentions, provides nearly $40 million in compensation to private claimants and to the Lithuanian Good Will Foundation for heirless Jewish property. Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs, and Faina Kukliansky, Chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, serve as co-chairs of the Good Will Foundation.
“The Good Will Compensation Law provides an important measure of justice to Lithuanian Holocaust survivors and their families for the horrors they suffered during World War II and its aftermath. It continues the process of property restitution and supports present day Jewish life in Lithuania,” said Rabbi Baker, who has been directly involved for decades in restitution negotiations with Lithuania and other Central Europe countries.
The new law addresses property restitution issues not covered in legislation, adopted in 2011, for communal property restitution. That law provided $40 million in compensation for former Jewish communal property. Though it represented only partial value of the properties, the law established the Good Will Foundation and provided much needed funds to support Jewish communal life in Lithuania, restored several Jewish heritage sites, and offered modest payments to needy survivors.
A portion of the additional $40 million will be directed to making payments to some claimants who had originally sought compensation for private property but were unfairly rejected under the 2011 law. The remaining funds, which will extend annual payments to the Good Will Foundation for another seven years, represent the Lithuanian government’s acknowledgment of ownerless Jewish property, referenced in the 2009 Terezin Declaration.
“The Good Will Compensation Law sets Lithuania apart from most other countries in the region that have yet to take any measure with respect to heirless property,” said Baker. “The funds will have a significant impact on strengthening and supporting Jewish communal life in Lithuania and addressing the welfare needs of the elderly, even though they may only be a fraction of the value of prewar Jewish property.”
Lithuania is one of seven countries covered by The Shapiro Silverberg AJC Central Europe Office in Warsaw.