Above: Incoming Jewish Agency Chairman of the Board, James Tisch (center) is flanked on left by Dr. Misha Galperin, President and CEO, Jewish Agency International Development, and Bobby Brown, left, executive director of the new Project HEART (Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce) a nonprofit initiative of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), funded by and in cooperation with the Government of Israel. (Photo/David Karp)
May 4, 2011 / 30 Nissan 5771
Searchable, user-friendly database helps victims, heirs reacquire losses
NEW YORK -- A large-scale international effort to help Jewish victims of the Holocaust redress claims of lost property confiscated, looted or forcibly sold under the Nazi regime was jumpstarted this week with the unveiling of a large, publicly available and searchable database of more than 650,000 Holocaust era property records in its first release.
The records were compiled and made available by Project HEART (Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce), an initiative of the Jewish Agency, in cooperation and with the support of the Government of Israel, to help Jewish families identify personal property confiscated by the Nazis and to help victims seek restitution.
The Project HEART database consists of property addresses, insurance policies, lists of homeowners, professions, lists of known confiscated properties, business directories, and other archival information that can assist potential applicants in their research. Archivists plan on releasing several million records, making HEART’s database the international community’s largest single-source database of lost Jewish property assets from the Holocaust era.
“We must embrace the awesome responsibility of assisting the Holocaust survivors in their waning years and ensuring the legacy of the lives that they led will never be forgotten,” said incoming Jewish Agency Chairman of the Board Jim Tisch. “The Jewish Agency takes this responsibility seriously in its considerable efforts for Holocaust survivors, through Project HEART, the Amigour Sheltered Housing project which provides safe living conditions for low income survivors and the La’ad project, which organizes volunteers who assist survivors in Israel with their daily lives and live out the remainder of their lives with dignity.”
“The Holocaust was not only genocide of the Jewish people, but the greatest robbery in history,” said Natan Sharansky, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency. “These new technological tools together with the official involvement of the State of Israel in this process give us the hope that this time things will be different. As a former Prisoner of Zion, I remember the difficulty that existed in transferring information in the Soviet Union. In the age of the Internet, Google and Facebook allow us to create magnificent revolutions. Project HEART’s website has received more than 700,000 hits during its first few weeks.”
“The Jewish Agency is the Global Table of the Jewish people,” said Dr. Misha Galperin President and CEO, Jewish Agency International Development, “The issue of justice for the dwindling world of Holocaust survivors is on the agenda of the entire Jewish People and therefore is on the agenda of the Jewish Agency. Project HEART is a powerful example of what the partnership between Jews in Israel and Jews around the world can accomplish when we work together.”
Project HEART’s Executive Director Bobby Brown said that the involvement of the Government of Israel in the global Holocaust restitution effort marks an important development for the victims and their heirs. “Israel’s very strength and national determination is derived from those who were forced to experience the very worst of humanity,” he said. “It is therefore incumbent upon the Jewish nation to do our utmost to give them some measure of justice which they have been denied for so long.”
Project HEART unveiled an initial set of archival records today, in the presence of leaders of the American Jewish community. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed attendees via video and said, “This is an initiative of great importance and offers us the promise that we can finally achieve the justice so long denied to the victims of the Holocaust and their heirs.”
Launched in late February, 2011, Project HEART seeks to identify Jewish Holocaust victims and their heirs worldwide whose families owned real estate, movable, immovable, or other intangible personal property that was confiscated, looted, or forcibly sold in countries governed or occupied by the Nazi forces or Axis powers during the Holocaust era. The only limitation for application is if a post-war settlement already has been made to a victim or the victim’s heirs for that property. In such cases, people are not eligible to apply to Project HEART regarding that property.
To participate, individuals need to fill out the questionnaire available on HEART’s website, www.heartwebsite.org. Since it was launched, details about Project HEART’s purpose and the application process have been translated into 13 languages, and a 24-hour call center is operational in all languages. To date, the project has received tens of thousands of requests for additional information.
Project HEART is a global effort led by the Jewish Agency for Israel in cooperation with the Government of Israel seeking to reach Jewish victims of the Holocaust and their heirs. The project’s goal is to record relevant information about personal property that was confiscated, looted or forcibly sold as a result of the Nazi occupation, and which has never been restituted. The ultimate aim of Project HEART is to provide the tools, strategy and information that will enable the Government of Israel, Project HEART and their partners to secure a measure of justice for eligible Jewish victims and their heirs—on behalf of the Jewish people.
Above: Esther Widman, right, a Holocaust survivor, shows ownership documents of looted family property from 1940’s Poland to Bobby Brown, left, executive director of the new Project HEART. (Photo/David Karp)
Please click here to view Project HEART pdf file.
Director of Communications