UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues Discusses Holocaust Restitution

September 29, 2020

Just prior to the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement’s (CAM) live studio event, “The IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism: Eleven Examples, Eleven Stories,” Lord Eric Pickles, the United Kingdom’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, was interviewed by the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) about Holocaust restitution. Lord Eric Pickles has been the U.K. Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues since 2015, dealing with issues of restitution of Holocaust-era assets, in addition to promoting Holocaust remembrance, education and research. Lord Pickles is also a member of CAM’s Advisory Board. 

The interview between JNS and Lord Pickles focused on the release of the JUST Act (Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today) report in July by the U.S. State Department. The JUST Act, signed into law 2018, required the department to report to Congress on steps or lack thereof that signatories of the 2009 Terezin Declaration have taken to compensate Holocaust victims and their heirs.

Lord Pickles expressed that he was pleased with the report and was briefed on its contents shortly before its release. Notably, in responding to a question about the report’s findings that Poland is the only European Union nation that does not have a Holocaust property restitution law, Lord Pickles said that the UK continues “to lobby very hard with Poland to put a restitution scheme [in place].” “I think it is a worry that they haven’t. We’ve seen the recent private member’s bill that went before the lower house is now with the Senate. I expect that to pass. I’m hopeful some amendments will go in to ensure that Holocaust victims’ families will still be able to make a claim,” Lord Pickles said.

Lord Pickles also suggested that “the JUST Act is the only game in town,” when it comes to pressuring Poland and others nations to enact just laws around Holocaust restitution. “America is the only country that has any muscle in this, so I’m kind of hoping that the JUST Act will be a point where we can start and work closely with Poland to get a restitution law,” Lord Pickles said.

JNS also asked Pickles if he saw the issue of providing restitution to Holocaust survivors and their relatives solely as a matter to fix the past, or if it is also part of the ongoing fight against anti-Semitism. Commenting that he works closely with the UK’s Anti-Semitism Envoy, Lord John Mann, Pickles stated that “Increasingly, the direct victims of the Nazis are getting older, and therefore their needs are getting much greater in terms of physical and mental care, so we’re looking for an increase from the federal government at this time.”

On Holocaust restitution relating to the present-day fight against anti-Semitism, Pickles was unequivocal in highlighting how Holocaust denial and revisionism are fast emerging anti-Semitic trends. “We have to remember that the last phase of the Holocaust is denial. The Holocaust will be reassessed,” Lord Pickles said.  “It’s really important that we ensure that the memory and unique nature of the Holocaust is remembered and remembered truthfully because there are lots of people out there who want to distort that history and want to suggest it didn’t happen or want to pick holes in the whole thing.”

Read the full JNS interview with Lord Eric Pickles here: https://www.jns.org/uk-special-envoy-for-post-holocaust-issues-on-just-act-report/