Least Known Holocaust Restitution Project

$300 Million Still Hasn't Been Claimed in Israel

Lottery Winners: Israel Peleg, CEO of Hashava, says many Zionists bought property in prewar Palestine, but never lived to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Courtesy of Hashava
Lottery Winners: Israel Peleg, CEO of Hashava, says many Zionists bought property in prewar Palestine, but never lived to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

By Nathan Guttman

Published December 09, 2012, issue of December 14, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

These investments took the form of real estate in Tel Aviv and other cities, and in agricultural lands located in central and northern Israel. Investors also owned bank accounts and stocks of the Jewish Colonial Trust, which later evolved into the Anglo-Palestine Bank, and which is known today as Bank Leumi. After the Holocaust, these assets were held by the representative of the British Crown that ruled the area. But with the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the new Israeli government and the Jewish National Fund took over the assets. It took 60 years until Israel recognized its responsibility for locating the legal heirs and returning their property to them.

The process began with building a database of all unclaimed assets, based on records of the Jewish Colonial Trust shares, of bank accounts, building and apartment deeds that were held by the JNF and of moveable assets such as Judaica and artworks. The list was then published on Hashava’s website and the public was invited to search and see whether family members owned property in pre-war Palestine. At the same time Hashava also worked backward from the assets to try and locate heirs who did not come forward.

The research process involved Jewish genealogical databases and information from the archives of Yad Vashem in Israel and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

To date, only $20 million of the $300 million in assets have been returned to heirs. Of the $300 million, Hashava has allocated an additional $100 million for helping Holocaust survivors living in Israel and for commemoration. According to Hashava’s data, some 10,000 restitution applications have been filed and 3,000 of those who filed have already had their assets returned.

But a 2009 report by Israel’s state comptroller criticized the organization for not meeting deadlines and for not being active enough in reaching out to potential heirs outside Israel. It was this criticism that prompted the campaign to spread the word to Jewish populations outside Israel, mainly in the United States. At the recent General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, Hashava hosted an event aimed at introducing the operation to American Jewish communities. The event followed up on information that was sent to Jewish communal organizations in an effort to make community members aware of the chance they might be the heirs of assets in Israel they did not know existed.

“It is encouraging to see that our campaign created a buzz,” said Peleg, who expects the stream of inquiries from American Jews to grow as news about the organization spreads.

According to law, Hashava is scheduled to cease operation by 2022, at which point the assets would be either returned to the heirs or used for support of any remaining Holocaust survivors. But, despite having disposed of less than 10% of their assets, sources close to the issue have estimated that the company may not last more than another five years, because the major assets have already been located and investigations into locating the heirs are already under way.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.