Board of Deputies & WJRO welcome Serbian restitution law

The World Jewish Restitution Organisation (WJRO) and The Board of Deputies welcome the passage by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia of legislation that will address heirless and unclaimed Jewish property expropriated during the Holocaust. The WJRO, alongside the Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia (SAVEZ), played a key role in in securing the adoption of this law, which included coordinating efforts in the UK with its local partner the Board of Deputies.

This is the first legislation on heirless property passed since Serbia and 46 other countries endorsed the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, which called for the restitution of heirless Jewish property. The legislation passed with support from across the political spectrum.

The new law will provide urgently needed funds and property to sustain and revitalise Jewish life in Serbia, as well as support Serbian Holocaust survivors living in Serbia and abroad, including in the UK. Passage of the legislation also recognises the devastation of the Serbian Jewish communities and the wartime murder of tens of thousands of Serbian Jews.

“This is a step toward justice and the recognition of history,” said Gideon Taylor, WJRO chair of operations. “Today, Serbia remembers those who perished in the Holocaust. We look to other countries to follow Serbia’s lead and return heirless Jewish property so that it can help Holocaust survivors in need, commemorate those who died and strengthen Jewish life in these communities where so much was destroyed.”

“We would like to thank the Board of Deputies for leading efforts in the UK, through its meetings at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and with the Ambassador of Serbia to the UK.”

Senior Vice President of the Board Richard Verber said: “I am delighted that Serbia has passed this important legislation, and that the Board was able to play its part working with the WJRO. I hope that other countries will follow. I would particularly like to express my sincere thanks to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, post-Holocaust issues envoy Sir Eric Pickles and the UK’s Ambassador to Serbia HE Denis Keefe for all of their efforts in expressing support for this law.”

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