Paris, 30 May 2022
“The 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall led to a snowball effect of archives opening across Europe,” stated Dr Shimon Samuels, the Wiesenthal Centre’s Director for International Relations.
“Each archive added new revelations on the crimes of World War Two. In 1997, our Geneva Conference, entitled ‘Restitution: A Moral Debt to History’, led to the creation, in France, of the CIVS (Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation), in 1999.”
76,000 Jews were deported from France between 1942 and 1944. In 1999, the CIVS held 29,934 files.
Since its opening by President Jacques Chirac, the Commission was delegated under the auspices of the Prime Minister.
From then on, the Wiesenthal Centre’s European office has monitored the cases and assisted claimants. For a decade, claims rained in from survivors or their heirs... over 60 years after the Holocaust. Then the claims became rarer, but each one completing part of the puzzle of Jewish Europe.
The most recent claim we have been overseeing was made for a three generation spread between Canada, Israel and Belgium. The Commission took into account only the direct spoliation victim, who had divorced his first wife and remarried with a survivor – just like himself – of deportation from France. He passed, his wife is now 99 years old.
Their children, as rightful claimants, gave power of attorney to Prof. Eric Freedman, the Wiesenthal Centre’s Representative to the CIVS. Freedman’s research showed that this victim of antisemitic spoliation under the Occupation was indeed a Belgian diamond cutter who had escaped to France. His diamonds were stolen at the moment of his arrest and brief detention before being sent to Auschwitz. To cope with his return from hell, he chose to be thankful for having been granted a new life.
Concerning the spoliation case, the Commission considered that there was “inadequate proof in the file...” It therefore took the Wiesenthal Centre’s researcher to delve into the archives and find evidence that allowed the claimants to obtain a sum that will be shared between the son and daughter of the deceased. The settlement was transmitted to the Prime Minister’s office.
The Wiesenthal Centre will continue to monitor and be present until the last claim to the CIVS of France.