The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets (“Hashava”)
Prior to the Second World War, many European Jews acquired real estate in Israel, then under British rule. Others deposited funds in pre-Israel banks, and some purchased securities (stocks, bonds) of pre-Israel companies. Many of those people were subsequently killed in the Holocaust. Often, their close relatives perished with them. The assets purchased – out of hope and trust in the Land of Israel – remained unclaimed for many years.
In line with the major efforts, made by the State of Israel in recent years, to return property abandoned for decades, Israel enacted in 2006 The Law for Holocaust Victims’ Assets (restitution of assets to heirs and dedication to commemoration and assistance) 2006 (5766) (in short, “The Holocaust Victims’ Assets Law” or the “Restitution Law”). The purposes of the Restitution Law are (a) to locate the legal heirs of Holocaust victims who owned property in Israel and (b) to return to those heirs the assets that had belonged to their perished ancestors. The State of Israel, through the website of “Hashava” – the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets Ltd., explains its activity, in a nutshell, as “the making of historical justice”, and publishes a detailed list of owners and of assets at http://www.hashava.info/assetlist/#.VmQaY_9UC5U
In addition to publicizing the assets and the names of their owners of record (the Holocaust victims), the Hashava Company is engaged in proactive efforts to track down relatives of such owners. After finding the people, who identify themselves as the legal heirs, it is time to initiate a formal application for restitution, which stage usually involves issuing succession orders, or probate orders, in Israel.
How we can assist: succession order for holocaust victim assets
This is where our office comes in, as more often than not, the issuance of a succession order or probate order involves legal work, which can be complex. This is due to the number of generations between that of the victims and the living heirs and the need to search globally for information and sometimes for find more people on the family tree. We can assist in tracking down heirs, and in preparing the required legal documents, in light of our vast experience in working internationally; as, quite often the legal heirs of the owners are not in Israel, and in many cases they are not even aware of having potential ownership rights in property in Israel. These heirs need legal assistance in obtaining documents in their countries of origin. We specialize in the processes required to have the heirs registered as ”owners of record” of the assets that once belonged to their family.
It is important to note, that the website of the Hashava Company includes, under the link “Succession Order” on its home page, a list of lawyers handling inheritance matters, who committed to cap their legal fees for issuing succession orders concerning Holocaust victims, pursuant to the Bar Association Regulations (Recommended Minimal Fee) 5760 – 2000 (see there; approximately 1.5% from the value of the estate). Our office is included in that list and commitment.
An Example: The story of Halina
Recently our office was contacted by the relatives of a woman, Halina, whose grandfather bought real estate lands in Israel prior to WWII. It turns out that in the 1950s, Halina and her brother knew of the existence of the land, and even obtained a succession order for an Israeli court, and in that way their names made its way into the official record. Due to a bureaucratic oversight and a letter which was sent but never reached its destination, Halina and her brother never won back the land, and in the interim they passed away. Apparently, the Hashava Company saw Halina’s name in the file, looked her up and learned, from a website of one of the cemeteries in Warsaw, Poland, that Halina is buried in that cemetery.
The Hashava Company contacted the cemetery’s office and was given the contact information of Halina’s children. These “children”, now in their 60s, whose great-grandfather owned the land, contacted our office. Their goal was to have a succession order and a probate order issued for the estate of Halina and her brother, and thereby to reclaim the family asset. As a result of the efforts of our office, the contact with relatives in the Netherlands was re-established, and we assisted the heirs of Halina and her brother to submit the appropriate applications, in order for their legal successors to reclaim the land and thereby close a chapter in the family life.
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