Seventy years later, most Holocaust survivors and their heirs have not been compensated for property confiscated by the Nazis and their collaborators.
“Justice has not been rendered and served,” said Richard Marceau, who will speak on Holocaust Restitution on Monday, November 23, 7 pm, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre.
A lawyer and former member of Parliament, Marceau is general counsel and senior government adviser at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and is a member of the Working Group on Negotiations and Advocacy of the World Jewish Restitution Organization.
Marceau’s talk is sponsored by the Shoah (Holocaust) Committee of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and takes place as part of Holocaust Education Month. He will present a “country by country” status report on European actions regarding restitution and he will discuss what Eastern European governments and Jewish organizations are doing to resolve this injustice.
“The Holocaust might be historical fact,” he said, “but its consequences are still being felt today. We can’t bring families back, but we can certainly fight to have what is owed to them, be given to them or to their descendants.”
The restitution effort in Canada has been quite intensive, he said.
“Last fall, CIJA and the Canadian Association of Holocaust Survivors and Descendants wrote to the three political parties in Parliament asking for their support on the issue of restitution. We got strong support from all three,” he said.
There were meetings with the embassies of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Ukraine, and with the European Union. Marceau and a colleague also met with Bulgaria this summer, and recently with Hungary and Lithuania.
“The Czech Republic is good, Bulgaria is good, but other countries are more problematic, including Poland,” he said in regard to resolving issues on restitution.
Marceau said his message to all of the countries was: “In 2009, you signed on to the Terezin Declaration committed to putting in place processes that are fast, efficient, and non-costly to deal with restitution. You haven’t done it. Live up to your commitments.”
The international campaign for Holocaust restitution is being led by the World Jewish Restitution Organization with CIJA acting on its behalf in Canada.
“It’s moving. Not as fast as we want, but we’re certainly pushing,” Marceau said. “It’s a question of justice, a question of fairness. Too many of our survivors live in poverty, and we’re doing what we can here and internationally to make it right.
“It never ever hurts to write to the embassies and put on pressure,” he said. “When we walk into meetings with letters in our pockets from the political parties, it says something.”
Marceau said then-minister of foreign affairs Rob Nicholson had indicated he had directed Canadian diplomats posted to the countries in question to press the issue of restitution with the governments there.
For more information about Holocaust Education Month events, contact Benita Siemiatycki at 613-798-4644 or firstname.lastname@example.org.