Knesset to Hear from Bank Leumi, Holocaust Survivors
The Finance Committee will address the continuing struggle between Bank Leumi and the Company for the Restitution of Holocaust Victims' Assets in its meeting Tuesday. The issue was added to Tuesday's agenda at the request of Kadima MK Zeev Bielski, who has backed the Company in its demands.
Representatives from several government ministries, including the Justice Ministry, the Finance Ministry, and the Social Welfare Ministry, have been invited to take part in the discussion. The discussion will also include representatives of both Bank Leumi and the Restitution Company, along with Holocaust victims' families and Holocaust survivors.
The Company for the Restitution of Assets was created to locate assets in Israel belonging to Holocaust victims, and to return them to the victims' heirs. The group has accused Bank Leumi of refusing to return assets left in its hands before the Holocaust, and of destroying documents in an attempt to avoid repayment, both to the heirs of account holders who were murdered and to those account holders who survived.
The bank's refusal to restore assets to victims' families undermines survivors' efforts to receive restitution from European governments, the organization alleges.
The Company organized a protest last Thursday at which dozens of Holocaust survivors demonstrated outside the central Bank Leumi offices, located in Tel Aviv. Survivors criticized the bank's policy.
Last month, the company filed a lawsuit demanding more than 300 million shekels that allegedly accrued to the bank from the money deposited by Holocaust victims prior to their deaths. The suit involves money from more than 3,500 accounts.
Bank Leumi officials have accused the Restitution Company of manipulating the memory of the Holocaust for its own purposes. Bank Leumi does not hold any funds or property that belong to Holocaust victims, bank officials say.
Despite its innocence, the bank gave the company 20 million shekels, but the money was never given to victims' heirs, officials claim. “[The Restitution Company] is not doing anything with it, other than spending hundreds of thousands of shekels on public relations,” they accused.
The current lawsuit and protests targeting Bank Leumi were organized in an attempt to cover up the Restitution Company's waste of funds, they charged.
Bank Leumi is the second-largest bank in Israel. The government owns a majority of the bank's shares.