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S. 1564 (105th): Holocaust Victims Redress Act

The text of the bill below is as of Jan 27, 1998 (Passed Congress).


S.1564

One Hundred Fifth Congress

of the

United States of America

AT THE SECOND SESSION

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday,

the twenty-seventh day of January, one thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight

An Act

To provide redress for inadequate restitution of assets seized by the United States Government during World War II which belonged to victims of the Holocaust, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ‘Holocaust Victims Redress Act’.

TITLE I--HEIRLESS ASSETS

SEC. 101. FINDINGS AND PURPOSES.

    (a) FINDINGS- The Congress finds as follows:

      (1) Among the $198,000,000 in German assets located in the United States and seized by the United States Government in World War II were believed to be bank accounts, trusts, securities, or other assets belonging to Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

      (2) Among an estimated $1,200,000,000 in assets of Swiss nationals and institutions which were frozen by the United States Government during World War II (including over $400,000,000 in bank deposits) were assets whose beneficial owners were believed to include victims of the Holocaust.

      (3) In the aftermath of the war, the Congress recognized that some of the victims of the Holocaust whose assets were among those seized or frozen during the war might not have any legal heirs, and legislation was enacted to authorize the transfer of up to $3,000,000 of such assets to organizations dedicated to providing relief and rehabilitation for survivors of the Holocaust.

      (4) Although the Congress and the Administration authorized the transfer of such amount to the relief organizations referred to in paragraph (3), the enormous administrative difficulties and cost involved in proving legal ownership of such assets, directly or beneficially, by victims of the Holocaust, and proving the existence or absence of heirs of such victims, led the Congress in 1962 to agree to a lump-sum settlement and to provide $500,000 for the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization of New York, such sum amounting to 1/6 th of the authorized maximum level of ‘heirless’ assets to be transferred.

      (5) In June of 1997, a representative of the Secretary of State, in testimony before the Congress, urged the reconsideration of the limited $500,000 settlement.

      (6) While a precisely accurate accounting of ‘heirless’ assets may be impossible, good conscience warrants the recognition that the victims of the Holocaust have a compelling moral claim to the unrestituted portion of assets referred to in paragraph (3).

      (7) Furthermore, leadership by the United States in meeting obligations to Holocaust victims would strengthen--

        (A) the efforts of the United States to press for the speedy distribution of the remaining nearly 6 metric tons of gold still held by the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold (the body established by France, Great Britain, and the United States at the end of World War II to return gold looted by Nazi Germany to the central banks of countries occupied by Germany during the war); and

        (B) the appeals by the United States to the 15 nations claiming a portion of such gold to contribute a substantial portion of any such distribution to Holocaust survivors in recognition of the recently documented fact that the gold held by the Commission includes gold stolen from individual victims of the Holocaust.

    (b) PURPOSES- The purposes of this Act are as follows:

      (1) To provide a measure of justice to survivors of the Holocaust all around the world while they are still alive.

      (2) To authorize the appropriation of an amount which is at least equal to the present value of the difference between the amount which was authorized to be transferred to successor organizations to compensate for assets in the United States of heirless victims of the Holocaust and the amount actually paid in 1962 to the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization of New York for that purpose.

      (3) To facilitate efforts by the United States to seek an agreement whereby nations with claims against gold held by the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold would contribute all, or a substantial portion, of that gold to charitable organizations to assist survivors of the Holocaust.

SEC. 102. DISTRIBUTIONS BY THE TRIPARTITE GOLD COMMISSION.

    (a) DIRECTIONS TO THE PRESIDENT- The President shall direct the commissioner representing the United States on the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold, established pursuant to Part III of the Paris Agreement on Reparation, to seek and vote for a timely agreement under which all signatories to the Paris Agreement on Reparation, with claims against the monetary gold pool in the jurisdiction of such Commission, contribute all, or a substantial portion, of such gold to charitable organizations to assist survivors of the Holocaust.

    (b) AUTHORITY TO OBLIGATE THE UNITED STATES-

      (1) IN GENERAL- From funds otherwise unobligated in the Treasury of the United States, the President is authorized to obligate subject to paragraph (2) an amount not to exceed $30,000,000 for distribution in accordance with subsections (a) and (b).

      (2) CONFORMANCE WITH BUDGET ACT REQUIREMENT- Any budget authority contained in paragraph (1) shall be effective only to such extent and in such amounts as are provided in advance in appropriation Acts.

SEC. 103. FULFILLMENT OF OBLIGATION OF THE UNITED STATES.

    (a) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS- There are authorized to be appropriated to the President such sums as may be necessary for fiscal years 1998, 1999, and 2000, not to exceed a total of $25,000,000 for all such fiscal years, for distribution to organizations as may be specified in any agreement concluded pursuant to section 102.

    (b) ARCHIVAL RESEARCH- There are authorized to be appropriated to the President $5,000,000 for archival research and translation services to assist in the restitution of assets looted or extorted from victims of the Holocaust and such other activities that would further Holocaust remembrance and education.

TITLE II--WORKS OF ART

SEC. 201. FINDINGS.

    Congress finds as follows:

      (1) Established pre-World War II principles of international law, as enunciated in Articles 47 and 56 of the Regulations annexed to the 1907 Hague Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, prohibited pillage and the seizure of works of art.

      (2) In the years since World War II, international sanctions against confiscation of works of art have been amplified through such conventions as the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, which forbids the illegal export of art work and calls for its earliest possible restitution to its rightful owner.

      (3) In defiance of the 1907 Hague Convention, the Nazis extorted and looted art from individuals and institutions in countries it occupied during World War II and used such booty to help finance their war of aggression.

      (4) The Nazis’ policy of looting art was a critical element and incentive in their campaign of genocide against individuals of Jewish and other religious and cultural heritage and, in this context, the Holocaust, while standing as a civil war against defined individuals and civilized values, must be considered a fundamental aspect of the world war unleashed on the continent.

      (5) Hence, the same international legal principles applied among states should be applied to art and other assets stolen from victims of the Holocaust.

      (6) In the aftermath of the war, art and other assets were transferred from territory previously controlled by the Nazis to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, much of which has not been returned to rightful owners.

SEC. 202. SENSE OF THE CONGRESS REGARDING RESTITUTION OF PRIVATE PROPERTY, SUCH AS WORKS OF ART.

    It is the sense of the Congress that consistent with the 1907 Hague Convention, all governments should undertake good faith efforts to facilitate the return of private and public property, such as works of art, to the rightful owners in cases where assets were confiscated from the claimant during the period of Nazi rule and there is reasonable proof that the claimant is the rightful owner.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Vice President of the United States and

President of the Senate.