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The Creation of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the
United States

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States was created by P.L. 105­186, which was passed with unanimous bipartisan support in the Congress and signed into law by President William Jefferson Clinton on June 23, 1998. The 21-member Commission, chaired by Edgar M. Bronfman, is charged by statute to:

* "conduct a thorough study and develop a historical record of the collection and disposition of the assets [of Holocaust victims] 1 if such assets came into the possession or control of the Federal government, including the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and any Federal Reserve bank;"

* "review comprehensively any research" by others "into the collection and disposition" of assets of Holocaust victims "to the extent that such research focuses on assets that came into the possession or control of private individuals, private entities, or non-Federal government entities within the United States;" and

* "submit a final report to the President that shall contain any recommendation for such legislative, administrative, or other action as it deems necessary or appropriate." The President then "shall submit to the Congress any recommendations" that he "considers necessary or appropriate."2

Research into the historical catastrophe known as the Holocaust serves several purposes. By documenting the actual events, it helps to create an irrefutable record that forever locates that period in world history. By revealing previously unknown details, it assists in extending some measure of justice to those scarred by the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis and their collaborators. By promoting analysis and confronting the question "Why?," historical investigation helps all nations and societies decipher lessons for the future conduct of human affairs. For these reasons, the international community has found many ways to support and promote Holocaust-era research.

The Commission believes that a review of the American historical record is important because Americans should know how their government dealt with the assets looted from victims of the Nazis that came into its possession. Such an accounting is consistent with the moral imperative to remember, and learn from, the darkest period in modern times. This work may also ultimately assist some victims or their heirs to recover property stolen from them years ago. Thus, the Commission's very existence is significant, helping our country, in President Clinton's words, to "begin this new millennium standing on higher ground."3

This document sets forth the critical findings of the Commission regarding the collection and disposition by the United States of the assets of Holocaust victims, and the Commission's policy recommendations based on those findings.

1 For purposes of the Commission's work, we have defined "victim" to mean an individual who was deprived of his or her civil or political rights on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, disability, or sexual orientation. We have defined "Holocaust-era assets" to mean assets that were in existence between 1933 and 1945, whether or not they belonged to victims, as defined above. "Victims' assets" is a more limited category comprised of Holocaust-era assets that belonged to those victims.

2 The U.S. Holocaust Assets Commission Act of 1998, 22 USC 1621 (note). For the full text of the statute, see Appendix A.

3 Remarks by President Clinton to the World Jewish Congress's "Partners in History: A Tribute," The Grand Ballroom, The Pierre Hotel, New York, NY, September 11, 2000.

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