[JURIST] Serbian lawmakers on Friday approved a bill that will allow restitution of heirless and unclaimed Jewish property taken during the Holocaust. The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) [advocacy website], which aggressively campaigned for the bill to be passed, said [AP report] that Serbia is leading the way as one of the first countries in Europe to pass such legislation. The property that the bill covers will be returned to the local Jewish community. Gideon Taylor, chair of the WJRO, stated [press release]:
This is a step toward justice and the recognition of history. ... Today, Serbia remembers those who perished in the Holocaust. We look to other countries to follow Serbia's lead and return heirless Jewish property so that it can help Holocaust survivors in need, commemorate those who died and strengthen Jewish life in these communities where so much was destroyed.The press release also noted that the new law will provide "urgently needed funds and property to sustain and revitalize Jewish life in Serbia."
The bill is the first legislation on heirless Jewish property passed since the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues [materials] was passed by Serbia and 46 other countries. The 2009 legislation called for the restitution of heirless and unclaimed Jewish property and emphasized the importance of providing restitution for communal and individual immovable property. The WJRO had campaigned in partnership with the Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia [official website] for two years to get the legislation approved. The legislation had US support as well. A letter [document, PDF] from the US House of Representatives [official website] stated that the measure's passage "would express Serbia's commitment to justice and the rule of law, and establish Serbia as a model for other countries in Europe who have not yet provided restitution for heirless property."