Israel satisfied with outcome of the Holocaust Era Assets Conference
June 30, 2009
Communicated by MFA Spokesman's Bureau
The Holocaust Era Assets Conference, which convened in Prague on June 26-30, held its final session at the Terezin concentration camp. There, on Tuesday morning, June 30, the Terezin Declaration was presented.
The Israeli delegation expressed satisfaction with the results of the conference and the concluding statement, which summed up the various working group discussions held during the conference.
The declaration established norms for the restoration of private and communal property and mentioned for the first time the need to deal with property without heirs, tying this to the need to look out for the welfare of surviving Holocaust victims.
At the conference it was decided that a new institute – the European Shoah Legacy Institute – would be set up in Terezin by the Czech government, outgoing President of the European Union, under the auspices of the EU. The new institute will be assisted by the European community and other states, with the US and Israel playing a major role. The institute will follow up on activities relating to Holocaust assets, education and the fight against antisemitism.
Five Holocaust survivors, who formed the central component of the Israeli delegation, participated in the discussions and featured prominently in the working groups. One of the objectives presented by the acting head of the delegation, former director general of the Foreign Ministry Reuven Merhav, was to boost the status of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), headed by David Peleg as director general. Peleg, who until recently was Israel's ambassador to Poland, presented a working plan at the conference in which the organization plays a major role in the process of property restitution.
The head of the Israeli delegation, Minister of Information and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein, who was the first delegation head to speak at the plenary session, was received warmly by the large audience. In his address, Minister Edelstein stressed the moral obligation of the 46 states that signed the Terezin Declaration. He noted that, at this late stage, it is important to move quickly. The minister expressed commitment, on behalf of the Government of Israel, to participate and support the Terezin Institute.