THE GOOD WILL FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES SYMBOLIC COMPENSATION PROGRAM FOR IMMOVABLE PRIVATE PROPERTY EXPROPRIATED IN LITHUANIA DURING THE PERIOD OF OCCUPATION BY TOTALITARIAN REGIMES FOR ELIGIBLE HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS & THEIR HEIRS
Good Will Foundation to administer one-time symbolic payment to eligible Lithuanian Jews or their heirs; provides total of €5-10 million to be distributed to approved applicants
The Good Will Foundation (GWF) announces that Lithuanian Holocaust survivors or their heirs can now apply for the Compensation for Immovable Private Property in Lithuania program. The application deadline is December 31, 2023.
The program is a result of legislation (Law No. XI-1470, as amended) which was introduced in November by Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė and signed into law by President Gitanas Nausėda on December 29, 2022. It aims to provide a measure of justice for Holocaust survivors and their families who were excluded from previous restitution legislation in Lithuania.
“This symbolic payment program will honor the legacy of lives that were forever changed by the unprecedented theft of property from Jewish people during the Holocaust and the period of occupation by totalitarian regimes in Lithuania. I commend Lithuania for adopting this meaningful law, which is an important chapter in our journey to find a measure of justice for those who lost so much,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, Co-Chair of the Good Will Foundation and Director of International Jewish Affairs at American Jewish Committee.
“It is our moral obligation to continue to help elderly Lithuanian Holocaust survivors and provide compensation from the new program for those who had their property wrongfully taken from them. We encourage all those who think they may be eligible to submit an application. Please be assured that the Good Will Foundation will work expeditiously to ensure that Holocaust survivors and their families can receive the justice they deserve,” said Faina Kukliansky, Co-Chair of the Good Will Foundation and Chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community.
Beginning in 1991, the Republic of Lithuania passed a series of laws that addressed the restitution of private immovable property that was nationalized or otherwise illegally expropriated during the period of occupation by the totalitarian regimes. These laws made eligibility contingent on current Lithuanian citizenship, and effectively excluded most Holocaust survivors, and their families, who no longer lived in Lithuania. In response, the Republic of Lithuania recently amended Law No. XI-1470 for the purpose of mitigating some of the historical injustices caused to Holocaust victims as a result of restrictive, complicated, and evolving citizenship laws.
Under the new law, the Lithuanian government has committed to pay a one-time symbolic payment to eligible Lithuanian Jews or their heirs who did not have the legal opportunity to restore their property rights in accordance with Lithuania’s prior legislation because they were no longer citizens during the relevant time period. The GWF has been designated to administer the fund and distribute between €5-10 million to eligible applicants. The exact amount to be distributed to each individual will be calculated when the total number of approved applicants has been determined.
The following persons are eligible to apply for this program:
Original owners, defined as:
- Persons of Jewish descent who lived in Lithuania at any time prior to May 8, 1945; and
- Owned property that was nationalized or otherwise illegally expropriated during the period of occupation by totalitarian regimes between June 15, 1940 and March 10, 1990; and
- Did not have the legal opportunity to restore property rights in accordance with legislation in the Republic of Lithuania, because they were non-citizens of the Republic of Lithuania between June 18, 1991 and December 31, 2001.
- Heirs to original owners:
- Where there is no surviving original owner, the spouse, parents (adoptive parents), or children (adopted children) of the original owner can submit an application, and in event of their death, the grandchildren of the original owner or the grandchild’s spouse can submit an application.
- Applications can also be submitted by heirs stipulated in the will of the original owner, and in the event of their death, their spouse, parents (adoptive parents), children (adopted children), grandchildren, or grandchild’s spouse can also submit an application.
The following types of immovable real property are eligible for symbolic compensation:
- Structure(s) used for economic and commercial purposes.
- Residential houses, together with their appurtenances.
- Apartments, together with their appurtenances.
Land is not eligible for symbolic compensation.
The application can be found https://gvf.lt/en/payments/. The GWF will also be mailing application forms to potentially eligible survivors.
The deadline to apply is December 31, 2023. No application received by the GWF after the December 31, 2023 deadline will be considered for payment.
Funds will be distributed to eligible applicants by July 1, 2025.
In addition to the payment program of €5-10 million for immovable private property, the remaining funds from the €37 million provided in the new law as symbolic compensation, will also extend annual payments to the Good Will Foundation for another seven years and represents the Lithuanian government’s acknowledgment of heirless Jewish property, referenced in the 2009 Terezin Declaration. This will have a significant impact on strengthening and supporting Jewish communal life in Lithuania and addressing the welfare needs of the elderly, even though it may only be a fraction of the value of prewar Jewish property. It also sets Lithuania apart from most other countries in the region that have yet to take any measure with respect to heirless property.
Co-chair of the Board of “Good Will Foundation”
Adv. Faina Kukliansky
Co-chair of the Board of “Good Will Foundation”
Rabbi Andrew Baker