Restitution demanded for confiscation of Croatian Jews' assets


Croatia is making moves towards settling the thorny problem of compensating expatriated Jews whose property was seized by the Ustashe and communist regimes during the last century.

By Kristina Cuk for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 22/11/05

Croatian Justice Minister Vesna Skare-Ozbolt says restitution must take place regardless of Croatia's EU hopes.

Expatriated Croatian Jews who lost their property during two sucessive regimes could receive compensation as Zagreb works to resolve this longstanding issue. The total amount of restitution could reach 20m euros.

In October, the US State Department's Special Ambassador for Holocaust issues, Edward B. O'Donnell, was in Zagreb for consultations. He said Washington is ready to negotiate a bilateral deal that would bring US citizens under the scope of Croatia's 1996 Restitution Act.

In 1941, the Ustashe regime in Croatia -- a puppet regime of Nazi Germany -- ordered Croatian Jews to report their property, including homes, apartments, bank accounts and personal valuables, such as jewelry. The assets were then seized and, in many cases, given to members of the former German minority in Croatia, known as the Volkdeutschers.

After the war's end, the property was nationalised by the communist government.

As Croatia moves forward with its EU bid, it is coming under pressure to resolve outstanding issues of restitution with a number of bloc members, including Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Zagreb already has been conducting negotiations with Austria over compensating the Volkdeutschers who were kicked out of Croatia in 1945. This, in turn, has highlighted the problem of Jewish restitution, since some exiled Germans lost property that originally belonged to Croatian Jews.

According to the Zagreb-based historian Ivo Goldstein, the number of Jews who are requesting restitution should not be very high. But the process, he adds, should go back to 1941, when the first assets were seized.

If the Croatian government accepts the demand, it will have to return assets in the form of real estate or provide a financial refund. One major obstacle is the fact that many of the properties have been turned into residential apartments, houses, forest and agricultural complexes, or offices. The Ukrainian embassy building, for example, reportedly belongs to an expatriated Jewish family in Argentina.

Croatian Justice Minister Vesna Skare-Ozbolt says restitution must take place regardless of Croatia's EU hopes. It has been a problem for more than half a century, she says, and cannot be avoided forever, even if solving it proves a complicated task.

Today's Features

In New Year's messages, SEE leaders call for continued reforms


European integration, democratisation and economic development were among the main themes in messages delivered by regional leaders to mark the start of 2006.
Twelve months of hard work toward EU integration ahead for Bulgaria


Bulgaria will need to focus all its efforts this year on fulfilling its reform commitments, to achieve EU entry on 1 January 2007, as planned.
Railway deal raises eyebrows in Serbia


Following recent scandals in the military, the medical system and in courts, a recent purchase by Serbia's state railway company has triggered controversy.