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S. 447 (115th): Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act of 2017

A bill which just passed the Senate and House could help spur the return of lost money, assets, and property taken by Hitler and the Nazis.

Context

As of a decade ago, less than 20 percent of assets stolen from Jews by the Nazis had been rightfully returned or restored.

Although there are fewer living Holocaust survivors by the day, currently estimated at less than 100,000, that still leaves tens of thousands of people who potentially seek financial restitution for duly-owned property or money that was lost.

What the bill does

The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act would mandate the State Department report on the progress of European nations in either returning or paying restitution for stolen property or assets from Holocaust victims in the 1930s and 1940s.

The report is to contain findings on “the return to the rightful owner of any property, including religious or communal property, that was wrongfully seized or transferred” and “the extent to which such laws and policies are implemented and enforced in practice, including through any applicable administrative or judicial processes.”

The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) as S. 447, and in the House by Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY14) as H.R. 1226.

What supporters say

Supporters argue the bill could help bring a level of closure after what has been in some cases seven decades or more of unaccounted-for thefts.

“We’re taking bipartisan action to ensure justice, which has been put off for far too long,” Senate lead sponsor Baldwin said in a press release. “Tragically, we are losing survivors every day, and it is my sincere hope that this legislation, by shining a spotlight and solidifying this issue as an American foreign policy priority, will spur action in countries that are falling short of their obligations, ultimately resulting in a measure of justice for these individuals who have waited far too long.”

Votes

The bill passed the Senate in December 2017 by a “unanimous consent” voice vote, meaning no record of individual votes was made due to a lack of meaningful opposition. The bill had first attracted a bipartisan 21 Senate cosponsors: 12 Democrats and nine Republicans.

It then passed the House in April through an identical voice vote. The bill had first attracted a bipartisan nine House cosponsors: eight Democrats and one Republican. (It’s unusual for a bill to achieve more than double the number of Senate cosponsors as House cosponsors, considering the House has more than quadruple as many members.)

Last updated May 4, 2018. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on May 10, 2018.


Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act of 2017

(Sec. 2) This bill requires the Department of State to report to Congress assessing the national laws and enforceable policies of covered countries regarding the identification and return of, or restitution for, assets wrongfully seized or transferred during the Holocaust era, including:

the return to the rightful owner of wrongfully seized or transferred property, including religious or communal property, or the provision of comparable substitute property or the payment of equitable compensation; the restitution of heirless property to assist needy Holocaust survivors; and progress on the resolution of claims for U.S.-citizen Holocaust survivors and family members. "Covered countries" are participants in the 2009 Holocaust Era Assets Conference that are determined by the State Department, in consultation with expert nongovernmental organizations, to be countries of particular concern relative to the restitution of Holocaust-era assets.

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