Michael Geller / JDC
Telephone: (212) 885-0838
Jamie Epstein / JDC
Telephone: (212) 885-0849
Press Office/New York State Banking Department
Telephone: (212) 709-1691
For Immediate Release
New York, New York, USA –
The New York State Banking Department and The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) today announced the transfer of two dormant Lithuanian Holocaust era bank accounts, previously held by Citigroup, to The Foundation for the Lithuanian Jewish Heritage, a non-profit institution based in Vilnius, Lithuania.
“I am pleased to see the funds from these accounts going to a foundation that will allocate them to a cause consistent with the bank’s original purpose,” said Superintendent Richard H. Neiman. “I would like to thank Citigroup, and all those involved, for coming together and negotiating a resolution that best serves the Jewish community of Lithuania. As one whose father emigrated from Lithuania in the early part of the century, this announcement has special meaning to me.”
The Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO), a division of the New York State Banking Department, was approached by Citigroup to assist with researching two dormant Holocaust era bank accounts. The HCPO determined that the original holder of these accounts was the Centralinis Zydu Bankas Kooperacijei Remti Lietuvoje (Central Jewish Bank for Furtherance of Cooperatives in Lithuania). The Bank, founded in 1921 with the help of the JDC, coordinated the work of dozens of local cooperative “Jewish Peoples Banks” (Volksbanks) to help rebuild Jewish life in Lithuania after World War I. The Bank also granted small loans to Jewish business owners and merchants until 1940.
Due to the destruction of the Jewish community of Lithuania during the Holocaust no successor could be identified, despite extensive research efforts by the HCPO.
The Foundation for the Lithuanian Jewish Heritage (Foundation) to which the funds are being transferred was established in 2005, by the Jewish Community of Lithuania and the Association of Lithuanian Jewish Religious Communities, together with the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO). The Foundation was established to cooperate with the Lithuanian government on matters relating to the restitution of Jewish property in Lithuania that was expropriated after 1940. The Foundation, whose mission is dedicated to promoting the development of Jewish cultural, educational and welfare activities, will become fully operational once a new law is enacted by the Lithuanian government for the restitution of Jewish communal property. The JDC, a 93 year-old international humanitarian organization, will hold the accounts in escrow until the Foundation is operational.
“After helping establish the Jewish Central Bank in Lithuania 86 years ago, the JDC once again looks forward to overseeing the transfer of these accounts to continue supporting the Jewish Community of Lithuania,” said Steve Schwager, Executive Vice President, JDC. Lewis B. Kaden, Chief Administrative Officer of Citigroup said: “We are pleased to have worked with the HCPO and the NYSBD to transfer these funds to the Foundation for the Lithuanian Jewish Heritage, an organization that will allocate the funds in a manner consistent with their original purpose.”
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization. JDC works in more than 70 countries and in Israel to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural and man-made disasters.
For more information, please visit www.JDC.org.
The HCPO was created in 1997 to help Holocaust victims and their heirs, free of charge, recover assets deposited in European banks; unpaid proceeds of insurance policies issued by European insurers; and artworks that were lost, looted or sold under duress. To date, the HCPO has responded to more than 13,000 inquires resulting in 4,774 claims from 45 states and 38 countries and has helped return approximately $63 million in bank claims, more than $26 million in insurance claims, over $5 million in other assets, and settled 16 art claims.