Since 1997 the Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) has advocated on behalf of Holocaust victims and their heirs, seeking the just and orderly return of assets to their original owners. In fulfilling this mission, the HCPO has facilitated the restitution of over $157 million in bank accounts, insurance policies, and other material losses and the resolution of cases involving more than 56 works of art.
The HCPO works as a bridge between claimants and the various international compensation organizations and/or the current holder(s) of the asset be it a bank account, insurance policy or artwork. Claimants pay no fee for the HCPO’s services, nor does the HCPO take a percentage of the value of the assets recovered. Our goal is to advocate for claimants by helping to alleviate any cost and bureaucratic hardships they might encounter in trying to pursue claims on their own.
We provide institutional assistance to individuals seeking to recover:
1. Assets deposited in banks.
2. Monies that insurance companies failed to pay policy beneficiaries.
3. Artwork that was lost, stolen, or sold under duress between 1933 and 1945.
In response to the complex nature of restitution claims, which range from the purely anecdotal to partially or even fully documented, the HCPO developed a systematic method to handle cases. After assessing the viability of a claim, the HCPO strives to document the prewar ownership, wartime loss and a claimant’s postwar entitlement to an asset, this being a major hurdle faced by all parties in the restitution process. To accomplish this task, HCPO staff members undertake three types of research: (1) genealogical; (2) archival research for prewar, wartime, and postwar records; and (3) the search for the missing objects, provenance research being one component of this effort.
Once all of the HCPO’s research is complete, and the missing asset has been located, our role changes from that of detective to advocate and facilitator. At this stage the HCPO submits claim information to the appropriate companies, authorities, museums, or organizations with the request that a complete and thorough search be made. By sharing all supporting documentation and through open and amicable discussion the HCPO facilitates cooperation between parties. Our successes repeatedly demonstrate that candid dialogue between parties can lead to the mutually beneficial resolution of these disputes.The continued success of the HCPO’s work demonstrates that the non-litigious and fair resolution of Holocaust-era asset claims is possible.