JERUSALEM - Only one-fifth of the property that was stolen from Europe's Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators has ever been returned, leaving at least $115 billion in assets still missing, according to a new study obtained yesterday by the Associated Press.
Many Western European governments paid restitution for only a fraction of the stolen real estate, investments, businesses and household items, while Eastern European countries under Soviet control paid almost nothing at all, according to the study.
Even the highly publicized campaigns over the last decade for more complete compensation barely made a dent in the problem, said the study, compiled by economist Sidney Zabludoff, a former CIA and U.S. Treasury official.
Elan Steinberg, a former executive director of World Jewish Congress who helped spearhead the 1990s push for Holocaust restitution, said he was "shocked, but not surprised" by the study's figures and called for a rapid resolution to the problem to benefit destitute, elderly Holocaust survivors.
"This is an extraordinary finding," he said, "and what makes it most tragic is that despite the efforts at restitution, we have so many Holocaust survivors at the end of their days . . . who are not being taken care of."
Zabludoff's study showed that before the Holocaust, Jews owned property in Europe that was worth $10 billion to $15 billion at the time. Most of that was never repaid, translating into a missing $115 billion to $175 billion in current dollars, the study said.
The study is to appear in the April issue of the Jewish Political Studies Review, a journal published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an Israeli think tank.
It documents a 60-year history of neglect in efforts to obtain restitution, despite laws passed in many European countries during and after World War II mandating compensation, Zabludoff said.
Most of the assets eventually restored to survivors and Jewish organizations - about 15 percent of the total taken - were recovered in the years immediately following the war, he said.