Monday, May 18, 2009

Conference: Governments and Jewish Groups Get Ready for June Meeting in Prague on Holocaust-Era Assets

Governments and Jewish Groups Get Ready for June Conference in Prague on Holocaust-Era Assets

(ISJM) Ten years after the international conference on Holocaust-era assets held in Washington, DC, a new conference will convene in Prague in late June to assess progress on restitution issues. The conference is sponsored by the Government of the Czech Republic, in cooperation with the Documentation Centre of Property Transfers of Cultural Assets of WW II Victims, the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, the Jewish Museum in Prague, the Terezín Memorial, the Institute of Jewish Studies at the Hussite Theological Faculty of the Charles University in Prague and the Forum 2000 Foundation.

The Prague conference scheduled for Prague on June 26-30, 2009 is intended to evaluate progress in identifying and recovering assets of Holocaust victims since the Washington Conference. Immovable property (synagogues, cemeteries, etc) is one of many categories around which the Prague conference in organized.

At present it is hard to get an accurate schedule of the conference or a list of participants. Potentially, there will be scores of delegations from countries and from NGOs. Many countries are still holding back on announcing who will be in their delegations, waiting to see what high-level dignitaries will be attending from the United States and other countries. Most likely, there will be formal and public sessions in which platitudes will be reiterated, and sound-bites recorded. There will be some lecturing by "good" countries, and some defensive posturing by "bad" countries. It will be behind the scenes that working groups of diplomats, Holocaust experts, historians, lawyers, and Holocasut victim advocates will be pressing their cases, and trying to negotiate policy.

The objectives of the conference are:

• To assess the progress made since the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets in the areas of the recovery of looted art and objects of cultural, historical and religious value (according to the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art and the Vilnius Forum Declaration 2000), and in the areas of property restitution and financial compensation schemes.

• To review current practices regarding provenance research and restitution and, where needed, define new effective instruments to improve these efforts.

• To review the impact of the Stockholm Declaration of 2000 on education, remembrance and research about the Holocaust.

• To strengthen the work of the Task Force on International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, a 26-nation body chaired by the Czech Republic in 2007-2008.

• To discuss new, innovative approaches in education, social programs and cultural initiatives related to the Holocaust and other National Socialist wrongs and to advance religious and ethnic tolerance in our societies and the world.

Herbert Block, Assistant Executive Vice President of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, a co-coordinator of the recent Bratislava Seminar, and an upcoming participant in Prague, recently published a summary of the present state of property restitution in much of Central and Eastern Europe.

No comments: