The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) on Sunday welcomed Lithuanian legislation addressing Holocaust survivors’ restitution claims, the organization announced in a statement.

The new legislation, introduced by Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, would provide over $37 million as symbolic compensation to private claimants with respect to heirless Jewish property, and to the Lithuanian Good Will Foundation.

In 2011, the Foundation for Lithuanian Jewish Heritage established the Good Will Foundation to distribute the more than $36 million in funds provided by the Lithuanian government pursuant to legislation passed that year. While that payment represented only partial value of the properties, it provided much needed funds to support Jewish communal life in Lithuania, restored several Jewish heritage sites and offered modest payments to needy survivors, according to WJRO.

“Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė’s proposal is an important step to providing a measure of justice to Lithuanian Holocaust survivors and their families for the horrors they suffered during World War II and its aftermath,” said the statement.

“We look forward to the opportunity to review this new legislation that would continue the process of property restitution and support Jewish life in Lithuania,” it added.

WJRO said the prospective funds would 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.

Šimonytė’s move followed lengthy discussions with Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, and Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of International Jewish Affairs at the American Jewish Committee. The two serve as the co-chairs of the Good Will Foundation.

During World War II, the Nazis and local collaborators annihilated over 90% of the 220,000 Jews in Lithuania. About 5,000 Jews currently live there.


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