Project HEART, a joint project of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency which has made it its mission to restore assets stolen from Holocaust victims, reported its very first success right in time for Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The ultimate aim of Project HEART is to provide the tools, strategy, and information that will enable the government of Israel, Project HEART, and its partners to secure a measure of justice for eligible Jewish victims and their heirs, as well as for the Jewish people.
HEART’s Executive Director Bobby Brown told the story of a young woman of Polish descent who approached the project and told the story of her non-Jewish grandmother who lived across the street from the camp in Auschwitz, and whose heart would bleed every morning as she saw the prisoners leave the camp to do forced labor.
The woman, said Brown, decided to help the Jewish prisoners by cooking extra food and having her children hide it in the bushes, so that when the Jews go to relieve themselves in the bushes they would find the food.
One day the woman went to collect her pots from between the bushes and found a necklace that was left in one of the pots by one of the Jewish prisoners in the camp. The woman gave the necklace to her daughter, who gave it to her granddaughter. The granddaughter is that same woman who approached Project HEART.
“The granddaughter came to me and said: ‘This is not my property. It belongs to the Jewish people,’” said Brown. “I took the necklace and said that there is only one place for that necklace, and that’s at Yad Vashem.”
Brown noted that Project HEART accepts any information on property that may belong to Holocaust victims. “Even anecdotal information at this point is accepted. We hope to do a number of different processes to help people find information in the future.”
Project HEART will shortly release a database listing more than half a million pieces of property owned by Jews in pre-war Europe. The database, which will be made available for public search, will allow families to identify property that had belonged to loved ones before the Holocaust so the restitution process can be started properly.
The Project was launched last month with a short film featuring Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. In the film, which was being screened on the giant screens in New York City’s Times Square, Netanyahu called for justice to be done for the victims of the Holocaust.