President Reuven Rivlin addressed a meeting at his residence on Thursday on the issue of returning property stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
“There can be no true justice, in the face of such terrible evil, such inhuman acts,” the president remarked, and asked, “What justice, can we bring to the children left in the snow their whole families murdered in front of their eyes? What justice can we bring after the murder of six million people? We cannot bring them back.”
Rivlin stressed, “We have risen from the ashes. The Jewish people has a home and an army to protect them. We have a strong economy, and Jewish culture flourishes. But no, the scars of the Holocaust, of the Shoah, can never be totally healed.”
The President continued, “We always say: ‘Crime doesn’t pay.’ But for many people the crimes of the Holocaust did pay. We cannot allow this. The property must be returned. In addition, time is running out. Less than 400,000 survivors are alive today. About half are here in Israel, the other half live around the world—many in the countries represented here.
“We all have a duty to the survivors today, now, to ensure their well-being. We have come a long way, both in recognizing the rights of survivors, and in returning property. In 2009, 47 countries signed the Terezin Declaration. We have made great progress in Serbia, and Romania, but there is still much more to do.”
Also speaking at the meeting were Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel (Likud); Yuval Rotem, the director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency; the co-chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) executive committee, Abraham Biderman; and the WJRO’s chair of operations, Gideon Taylor.
Gamliel said, “The Jewish people and the Jewish state have a moral duty to make every effort to return the stolen property of Holocaust survivors. Returning the Jewish property is a complex issue that requires extensive and sensitive international action. Only if the Jewish world will speak with one voice and claim the confiscated property from the victims of the Holocaust will it be possible to work with the different countries to return the stolen property to its rightful owners, and achieve some historical justice.
“The statements made by the European Union last week on the importance of the issue of returning Jewish property did not occur in a vacuum, it is the result of cooperation and partnership between the State and the WJRO.”
The director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the meeting of the efforts made by the MFA to reach the work plan which was to be signed. “I am proud of the part the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has played in the current international efforts to achieve justice for the survivors of the Holocaust,” he said.
At the end of the meeting, the participants joined representatives of the MFA, representatives of the WJRO, and the director general of the Ministry of Social Equality and his staff for the signing of a joint work plan to see the return of Jewish property stolen from the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
Also attending the meeting were the German ambassador to Israel, Clemens von Goetze; the European Union’s head of delegation to Israel, Ambassador Lars Faaborg–Andersen; the deputy ambassador of the United Kingdom, Tony Kay; representatives of the US and French embassies; and the French government’s special envoy for restitution, François Croquette.