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The Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States makes the following recommendations to the President of the United States, pursuant to the Commission's statutory mandate:
A.The President should urge Congress to establish a Foundation to promote further research and education in the area of Holocaust-era assets and restitution policy and to promote innovative solutions to contemporary restitution policy issues. The Foundation should be authorized to accept private contributions as well as appropriated funds, and should sunset after 10 years. Contributions to the Foundation should be tax deductible. The President should request Congress to provide a one time appropriation adequate to fully carry out the Foundation's functions.
The Foundation should coordinate its activities with governmental and nongovernmental organizations and individuals and provide that any of its responsibilities that are ongoing at the time of the Foundation's sunset will devolve to another entity.
Specifically, the Foundation should undertake the following, among other purposes:
1. Provide centralized repositories for research and information about Holocaust-era assets.
* The Foundation should be responsible for the compilation and publication of a report that integrates, synthesizes and supplements as necessary the research on Holocaust-era assets prepared by various countries' commissions on the Holocaust.
* The Foundation should review the degree to which foreign governments have implemented the principles adopted at the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets and the Vilnius International Forum on Holocaust-Era Looted Cultural Property, and should encourage the signatories that have not yet implemented those principles to do so.
* The Foundation should provide for coordinated and centralized dissemination of information about restitution programs, working with such organizations as the Conference on Material Claims Against Germany and others.
2. Promote the development of tools to assist individuals and institutions to determine the ownership of Holocaust victims' assets.
* The Foundation should make grants to encourage the creation and expansion of mechanisms--including publicizing the availability of such resources--to assist claimants in obtaining speedy resolution of claims. Such grants should not be used for attorneys' fees.
* The Foundation should encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) by making grants to enable claimants who cannot otherwise afford such services to make use of them. Such grants should not be used for attorneys' fees.
* The Foundation should provide a grant to an appropriate institution or institutions to establish and maintain a computerized, searchable database of Holocaust victims' claims for the restitution of personal property, giving consideration to the long-term sustainability of the database.
* To implement the agreement with the American Association of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Foundation should cooperate with the museum community to provide for the establishment and maintenance of a searchable central registry of Holocaust-era cultural property in the United States, beginning with European paintings and Judaica. This registry, with uniform standards for data inclusion and completeness, will make all object and provenance information accessible by Internet search from a single site. Museums should disclose all currently known object and provenance information as soon as practicable and continue to supplement this information as it becomes available. Congress should provide funds to assist in the establishment and maintenance of the registry.
* The Foundation should support the museum community in its efforts to implement full disclosure of Holocaust-era provenance research, beginning with European paintings and Judaica.
* The Foundation should regularly publish lists of Holocaust-era artworks returned to claimants by museums in the United States.
* The Foundation should cooperate with an appropriate institution, such as the Institute for Museum and Library Services, to fund grants to museums, libraries, universities, and other institutions holding Holocaust cultural property for the conduct of satisfactory provenance research. These awards are to be conditioned on the recipients' acceptance of the standards for provenance research developed in accordance with these recommendations.
* The Foundation should fund a cross match of records developed by the 50 states of unclaimed property from the Holocaust era that has escheated against databases of victims' names, including the database of victims maintained by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Israel and others. The results should be widely publicized to enable people with legitimate claims to seek return of their assets.
3. Work with the private sector to develop and promote common standards and best practices for research on Holocaust-era assets.
* The Foundation should promote and monitor banks' implementation of the suggested best practices developed in conjunction with the New York Bankers Association.
* The Foundation should monitor the implementation of the Commission's agreement with the museum community regarding full disclosure.
* In cooperation with the private sector, the Foundation should promote the development of common standards and best practices for research by U.S. corporations into their own records concerning the circumstances under which they did business in Germany in the period preceding December 1941.
B.The Federal government should promote the review of Holocaust-era assets in federal, state and private institutions, and the return of such assets to victims or their heirs.
* Building on the Commission's work with the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, and the Army museums, the President should require other federal institutions, including military bases and other installations maintained by the Department of Defense in the United States and abroad, to inspect their holdings for Holocaust-era assets. In the event that an asset located in a federal institution is found to be a looted asset for which no claim by a legitimate owner is known, the asset should be left where it is located and its history acknowledged with immediate appropriate public notice and recognition that remains in place until such time as a successful claim is made with respect to that asset. The federal institution should make diligent attempts to identify the rightful owner or heirs and return the asset.
* The President should commend the Library of Congress for recognizing the unique provenance of the books it received from the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (JCR) as well as other items that were looted by the Nazis. The Library has agreed to establish a "virtual library" of JCR titles and related books to enable the public to search for JCR and related items on-line; to examine the volumes in person in the Library's African and Middle Eastern Reading Room; to catalogue any of the remaining books that have been identified as belonging to this collection; to develop a collection "name" field to aggregate all the records for the JCR collection within the virtual library; to make this list of titles available to agencies, organizations and individuals involved in the restitution of Holocaust-era assets; and to restitute any of these volumes upon establishment of a legitimate claim. Finally, the Library will include selected volumes from the collection of JCR and related books in a major permanent exhibition of the Library's international treasures, scheduled to open in February 2001. In addition, the Library will mount a display in 2002 to mark the 50th anniversary of the completion of the JCR's work.
* The Foundation should urge other libraries in receipt of books from the JCR to follow the example of the Library of Congress with regard to
the identification and recognition of those books that remain in their collections.
* The President should commend the National Gallery of Art for its research into the provenance of Holocaust-era art in its collection. In the event that an asset located in the National Gallery is found to be a looted asset for which no claim by a legitimate owner is known, the asset should be left where it is located and its history acknowledged with immediate appropriate public notice and recognition that remains in place until such time as a successful claim is made with respect to that asset. The National Gallery should make diligent attempts to identify the rightful owner or heirs and return the asset.
* The President should require the Department of Defense to develop, in concert with veterans' service organizations, a program to promote the voluntary return of victims' assets that may have been taken by former members of the armed forces as war souvenirs.
* In light of the success of the Commission's pilot project regarding dormant financial assets, the Federal government should encourage states to automate, in a uniform manner, records of unclaimed property from the Holocaust era that has escheated to them, or that is otherwise the subject of their regulatory jurisdiction.
* The Federal government should encourage private institutions holding Holocaust-era assets to make diligent attempts to locate the rightful owners or their heirs and return any assets for which legitimate claims can be established.
C. The Federal government should preserve archival records of the Holocaust era and facilitate research into such records.
* The Federal government should establish an appropriately funded and comprehensive preservation initiative with regard to Holocaust-era records under its control.
* The Federal government should establish and maintain maximum public access to national archives containing documents and other materials related to Holocaust-era assets by providing Federal funds to support the development and publication of research guides and finding aids for Holocaust-era materials by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and other federal and nonfederal institutions.
* The Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group (IWG) should be fully funded to continue its operations until January 2005.
D. The Department of Defense should be prepared to address similar issues in future conflicts.
* The Department of Defense should review existing policies, orders, directives, and regulations governing the control of and accountability for the national and individual property that may come under U.S. military control when the military is deployed on operations in foreign countries to ensure that such policies, orders, directives, and regulations are both adequate and appropriate. The Department of Defense should establish or enhance such policies, orders, regulations, and directives as required to ensure their efficacy.
* The Department of Defense should review the training provided to U.S. service members and Department of Defense civilians regarding the handling, control and accountability of property of foreign governments and their nationals that U.S. forces may encounter during operational deployments. Such training--especially pre-deployment training--should sensitize deploying forces to the moral and legal imperatives associated with the proper handling and safeguarding of national and personal assets consistent with operational requirements.
* The Department of Defense should be encouraged to work cooperatively with the Foundation and other relevant institutions to develop or refine training for U.S. service members and Department of Defense civilians to prepare U.S. forces to meet the challenges and responsibilities while deployed on operational missions overseas when they encounter national and/or individual property. Such training should ensure that deploying U.S. forces understand and can apply the critical lessons learned from their actions during World War II.
E. The United States should continue its leadership to promote the international community's commitment to addressing asset restitution issues.
* The United States should establish as a factor in its bilateral relations with nations to which the United States restituted looted assets the identification and publication of information regarding the degree to which the governments of those nations restituted such assets to the rightful owners or their heirs.
* The President should maintain the positions of Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues at the State Department with the rank of Ambassador and Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State for Holocaust Issues. The Office of Holocaust Issues at the State Department should be maintained with adequate resources to assist these positions.
* The President should instruct the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues at the State Department to continue to encourage foreign governments to make their archives open and accessible and to cooperate with the worldwide archival reproduction program of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, as well as to restitute communal and personal property in a nondiscriminatory way.
F. The President should urge Congress to pass legislation that removes impediments to the identification and restitution of Holocaust victims' assets.
* The President should urge Congress to amend the Federal Immunity from Seizure Act to provide that an importer of Holocaust-era cultural property seeking immunity from seizure of that property must provide notice of the application to a designated organization representing Holocaust victims and/or their heirs. The application for immunity should state that the works for which immunity is sought are not the subject of a claim listed on the comprehensive claims database proposed in these recommendations.
* The President should urge Congress to amend the National Stolen Property Act to preclude as a defense in a forfeiture action involving the Act that the Holocaust-era art or cultural property lost its status as stolen property (a) when it was recovered by law enforcement or military authorities or (b) when title was transferred in a country whose laws provide that stolen property loses its status as such when a sale or transfer occurs.
* The President should urge Congress to reopen the claims process for victims and their heirs whose property was vested in the Alien Property Custodian but not returned. Congress should authorize the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission to adjudicate any such claims and should provide an appropriation adequate to fund any awards.
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