By Resolution 773 of 25 November 1998 the Czech government established a Commission, or Joint Working Committee, to address the issue of mitigation of property injustices caused to victims of the Holocaust. The main tasks of the Commission were to gather as much information and documentation as possible of Jewish property confiscated by the Nazi occupation authorities, including the management of this property after 1945. The Commission was also tasked with preparing draft legislation to mitigate the property injustices caused to victims of the Holocaust.
Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Legislative Council. Pavel Rychetský, was appointed Chairman of the Government Commission. Commission members included representatives of the Government, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the President of the Republic, the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadastre, the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic [Tomas Kraus], a representative of the American Jewish Committee [Andy Baker] and representatives of the World Jewish Restitution Organization.
The first session of the Commission led to the creation of three working sections of the Commission, with the following foci:
- Section for the assessment of legal issues - the task of this section was to assess the issue of restitution of assets, and to propose valid legislation to enable this including the determination of heirs.
- Section for assessing real estate - the purpose of this section was to assess the results to date of restitution of property to the Jewish community and to suggest next steps where property had not yet been returned.
- Section to summarize the damage to property in the Czech Republic – their task was to summarise property damage during the Nazi occupation, including disposal of these assets after 1945
The Commission also established three expert teams to address the issue of the aryanisation and confiscation of artworks, to create an inventory of immovable property and the fate of precious metals.
Selected results of the Commission's work:
- Act 212/2000 – the Czech restitution law to mitigate property injustices caused by the Holocaust including land, agricultural property, property of the Jewish community, property of foundations and associations whose assets were taken the transfer of which was declared invalid by Presidential Decree No. 5/1945 or by Act No. 128/1946 Sb. 128/1946 Coll. The Act also enabled the free transfer of works of art to individuals who were deprived of them between 1938-1945 and which were declared invalid by Presidential Decree č. 5/1945 Sb. No. 5/1945 or by Act No. 128/1946 Coll. and which were also on the effective date of the law in state ownership. This Act further expanded the group of persons entitled to restitution. For full details of the Law see http://www.lootedart.com/MFEU4850866
- The setting aside of CZK 300 million into an Endowment Fund run by the Federation of Jewish Communities with the basic purpose to provide Grant Assistance for mitigation of (real) property injustices caused to Holocaust victims, and individuals due to racial discrimination. It was to provide special care for the needs of those who survived the Holocaust, as well as for reconstruction, restoration and preservation of movable and immovable Jewish monuments in the Czech Republic, to support educational activities in the field of Judaism and projects serving the dignified commemoration of Holocaust victims. The Fund announced three grant programs, a program of social and health care, with special reference to the needs of those who survived the Holocaust, program projects aimed at dignified commemoration of the Holocaust, designed to promote memorials, audio-visual and cultural projects, publications and other activities, and a program of educational activities in the field of Judaism, in which it was possible to apply for support for educational programs, study visits, seminars and conferences dealing with the issue of the Holocaust.
- Art collections of the state museums and galleries - in connection with the Commission's activities Stages 1 and 2 of research into the collections of state museums, galleries and collections of the state and castles was undertaken. As a result, a Stage 1 list containing 2,475 objects, demonstrably property of Holocaust victims, and a Stage 2 list containing 4,375 such articles was prepared. It was reported that the collection items that are part of permanent exhibitions were already marked with special labels on their origin. The list in question was to be published on the website of the Moravian Museum, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Czech embassies abroad. [In the event it was published on a site created by the Ministry of Culture in 2000 (http://www.restitution-art.cz/english/main.html) and contained less than 4,000 items – today, March 2013) it still contains 3,465). This list was to be continuously updated and supplemented by other items identified as from the property of Holocaust victims and other information for applicants to apply for the return of these items [this has not happened].
- Related to this was the publication by the Expert Committee Team of the Art Report “Umělecké předměty ze židovského majetku v českých zemích 1938-1945, protiprávní zásahy do majetkových práv, jejich rozsah a následné osudy tohoto majetku” (Art Objects of Jewish Property in Czech Territory 1938 - 1945, Unlawful Interference with Property Rights, their Scope and the Subsequent Fate of this Property) which was completed in September 2000 and was to be the basis for further work. The Report contains sections on state and museum archives and literature relevant to looted artworks in the Czech Republic; the background to the seizure of property by the Nazis; mechanisms of confiscation and disposal of the looted artworks; case studies of Richard Popper, Emil Freund, Selma Bastyrova, Jindrich Waldes, Richard Morawetz, Oskar Federer, Arthur Feldmann and Philip Gomperz; restitution 1941-1948; current issues. This report and the further results of this initiative are published on this site here.
- Also related was the publication of the report on precious metals, 'Jewish Gold and other Precious Metals, Precious Stones and Objects made of such Materials - Situation in the Czech Lands in the years 1939 to 1945'.
The Report is available here in English.