* WJRC urges return of property seized in Holocaust
* Cites Poland, Latvia, Romania as particular problem
PRAGUE Nov 28 A global Jewish group urged
central and east European countries on Wednesday to return or
provide compensation for property seized during the Holocaust
and accused Poland, Latvia and Romania in particular of
After a conference in Prague, the World Jewish Restitution
Organisation (WJRO) said tens of thousands of Nazi Holocaust
victims and their heirs had not been able to resolve claims on
stolen property despite two decades of trying since the fall of
post-war communist regimes in central and eastern Europe.
The properties in question are now in the hands of private
citizens, businesses and various levels of governments.
WJRO President Ron Lauder, a businessman, philanthropist and
billionaire son of fashion magnate Estee Lauder, said Poland,
Latvia and Romania were posing particular obstacles.
"The WJRO is appalled that the government in Warsaw now
adamantly refuses to offer any legislative gestures to address
languishing private property claims," he said in a statement.
"WJRO calls for Latvia to finally enact appropriate
legislation for the return of Jewish communal property,
concluding many years of discussion."
Lauder added that the WJRO was "disappointed" in Romania,
which he said had passed restitution laws but left in place red
tape that was stalling the process.
Officials of the three governments were not immediately
available for comment.
The WJRO is an umbrella organisation of Jewish groups,
including the American Jewish Community, B'nai B'rith
International, the World Jewish Congress, the World Zionist
Organisation and others seeking to recover Jewish property
looted during the 1933-1945 era of Nazi Germany.
Some six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis and
their allies during the Holocaust, with many being sent to death
camps after their possessions were seized.
MAJOR DISPUTE IN LATVIA
In Latvia there is a longstanding dispute between the
government and Jewish groups who say Riga should return to their
community property that belonged to Holocaust victims.
In June, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed
Latvia to resolve the claims. At the time, Foreign Minister
Edgars Rinkevics said the process had to move gradually.
On Tuesday, a group of Hungarian Jews called on Russia to
return hundreds of sacred Torah scrolls and other items stolen
by the Nazis and then later by the Soviet Red Army and taken
back to Russia at the end of World War Two.
At the Prague restitution conference, delegates from 41
countries reviewed progress on a process that began in 2009 with
the Terezin Declaration, named after the former Nazi
concentration camp in the Czech town of the same name.
At that meeting, officials said the value of European Jewish
assets seized during the Holocaust amounted to around $15
billion, but would be far greater today.
The groups plan to meet again next year in Brussels.
Germany said on Nov. 15 that it would make payments to
Holocaust victims who have still not been compensated - roughly
80,000 people in eastern Europe - nearly 70 years after the Nazi
Former West Germany acknowledged the murder of 6 million
Jews by the Nazis and began in 1952 to pay compensation
eventually worth 3 billion deutsche marks (1.5 billion euros
or$1.94 billion) to Israel.
In 1992, two years after West and communist East Germany
reunited, they agreed to provide further restitution.
($1 = 0.7746 euros)
(Reporting by Michael Winfrey; Editing by Mark Heinrich)