Tomorrow, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) will unveil a large, searchable data base containing more than 500,000 archival records that researchers have compiled to assist Jewish families redress claims of lost property confiscated, looted or forcibly sold by the Nazis. The Nazi-era government records were compiled by Project HEART (Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce), which was recently formed by JAFI in cooperation with the Government of Israel to help Jewish families identify personal property confiscated by the Nazis for which survivors and heirs never received restitution. The Project, launched with a multi-million dollar budget, serves as the Government’s first official effort to address the restitution of property stolen from Jewish Holocaust victims.
Speaking in Jerusalem on Sunday, Project executive director Bobby Brown said that the involvement of the Government in the global Holocaust restitution effort marks an important development for the victims and their heirs. “Israel’s very strength and national determination is derived from those who were forced to experience the very worst of humanity,” he said. “It is therefore incumbent upon the Jewish nation to do our utmost to give them some measure of justice which they have been denied for so long.”
The database, available in 13 languages, contains property information culled from numerous public records including those that listed the names of the original owners and sometimes their profession. The organizers hope to have information available on over one million pieces of property by the end of the year.