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Lithuania proposes expanding compensation for Jewish property seized in WWII

Lithuania's Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte speaks during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, November 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
Lithuania's Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte speaks during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, November 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte is introducing a draft bill to expand a compensation plan for Jewish property seized by the Nazis and Soviets.

Simonyte proposes that the Baltic state — whose Jewish community was decimated during the Holocaust — distribute 37 million euros in restitution for lost private property.

The plan comes a decade after Lithuania approved an equivalent compensation package for Jewish communal property seized during World War II.

With the new initiative, the EU member seeks to definitively settle the matter, which is regularly brought up by Jewish organizations at home and abroad.

“I believe this is an issue that Lithuania finally needs to resolve… I would like to submit this bill to parliament,” Simonyte tells reporters.

She adds that 37 million euros was a symbolic sum, as it’s difficult to identify all the seized properties and ascertain their value.

Lithuanian Jewish community leader Faina Kukliansky tells reporters that whether the legislation will end up passing is “a kind of test for the state.”

The draft bill reads that Jews whose property was seized and their heirs will be able to apply for compensation.

The payouts would be handled by a special fund, which already administers the money the community received for its lost communal property.

If approved by the government and parliament, the funds will be distributed over several years starting in 2024.

Before World War II, Lithuania was home to 220,000 Jews, but 95 percent of them died at the hands of German Nazis and local collaborators.

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