The Holocaust not only put an end to the long and glorious history of Lithuanian Jewry, it also led to the expropriation of property and other possessions.
The launch of an international outreach campaign to notify Lithuanian Jewish property owners and certain of their heirs who may be eligible to receive symbolic compensation for immovable private property expropriated in Lithuania during the Holocaust and its aftermath is of tremendous historical significance, particularly because of the inclusion of certain heirs.
Applying for a program like this is not only about recognition, it can also be part of a family journey to understand one’s history. For a grandchild to learn about a house in which their grandparent once lived is a powerful way to connect generations of Jewish life.
In some ways this program is the place where a proud heritage meets the struggle for symbolic justice for those who suffered; it is as much about recognition as it is about property.
One person embracing the chance to apply for the symbolic compensation program is Raja, 58, a second-generation survivor from Toronto, Canada. The program provides the opportunity for her and others like her to seek redress and pay homage to the memory of her parents and grandparents, and to give meaning behind the properties that were wrongfully taken from them.
“My decision to apply for this symbolic compensation program is rooted in my wish to honor my family’s legacy, give voice to the untold stories of their unfairly seized properties and ensure that their history remains alive,” Raja reflects.
In December 2022, the Republic of Lithuania achieved a significant milestone by adopting an important law on private property restitution, after intensive efforts by the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) and the local Lithuanian Jewish community. Lithuania is allocating €5-10 million as symbolic compensation. The Good Will Foundation was designated as the entity responsible for administering the fund and distributing the funds to eligible applicants. Although the amount is not large, this fund aims to provide recognition to Holocaust survivors and their families who were excluded from previous restitution legislation due to foreign citizenship.
If you are a Lithuanian Jewish property owner or a certain descendant of such owners whose property was nationalized or otherwise illegally expropriated in Lithuania during the Holocaust and its aftermath, you may be eligible to receive a symbolic payment for your family’s material losses by participating in this program. The precise amount to be distributed to each eligible individual will be determined based on the total number of approved applicants.
For additional details, criteria, and application forms, please visit: https://gvf.lt/en/payments/. The deadline for the program is December 31, 2023.
For Raja and her family, the horrors of the Holocaust left an indelible mark. Stolen property included her grandfather’s home and his thriving meat factory and shop. For her paternal grandparents, war meant fleeing to the Urals, the loss of a cherished family member, and a subsequent return to an unrecognizable hometown.
Raja’s parents never forgot what happened to them. They moved from Vilna with Raja, her husband and child to Israel in 1990, then to Canada in 2005. However, distance could not sever ties to her family’s struggles, continually shaping her identity and her roots.
The opportunity to apply to the symbolic compensation program provides a bridge between past, present, and future forged by resilience and an unwavering determination to acknowledge history and her family’s legacy.
Please note, the Claims Conference and WJRO are not involved in the implementation, administration, or application processing of these payments. You must contact the Good Will Foundation directly for help or more information.