New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is joining Project HEART – a program of the Israeli government’s Ministry of Senior Citizens and the Jewish Agency for Israel – to assist its efforts to retrieve and find European Jewish properties which were confiscated or otherwise lost during World War II and the Holocaust.
As New York’s custodian of approximately $12 billion in unclaimed funds, DiNapoli oversees the return of money that has been dormant or forgotten by its rightful owners. The Office of Unclaimed Funds has a database of more than 28 million lost accounts dating back to 1943 – and in some cases earlier – that matches Project HEART’s database.
“This endeavor with Project HEART is a small step in ensuring that victims of the Holocaust and their heirs receive some of what was taken from them,” Comptroller DiNapoli stated. “I strongly urge other state comptrollers and treasurers to join this important effort. My office will work to provide restitution to Jewish victims of the Holocaust and their heirs.”
The New York State Comptroller manages, on behalf of the state, the financial system of the local retirement funds, and acts as the guardian of unclaimed estate assets, which include lost property from the Holocaust era. He is also the Comptroller and the regulator of financial businesses and organizations in the State of New York. As a first stage of cooperation between the organizations, Project HEART will transfer, in accordance with the rules of confidentiality and privacy, the information received concerning property stolen from Jews during the Holocaust era. The Comptroller will then crosscheck this data with the data in his office in order to ascertain if there are any matches regarding Jewish property from before World War II yet to be restituted. If any such financial assets are identified, they will be returned to the survivors or their heirs. In addition, the New York State Comptroller will contact financial institution and organizations in the State of New York that hold assets, in cooperation with Project HEART. Since the Comptroller is an influential regulatory body, those organizations will be examined thoroughly to bring about a modicum of justice.
Project HEART is a nonprofit initiative of the Government of Israel, the Ministry of Senior Citizens in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel and the assistance of Holocaust survivors’ organizations in Israel. The primary focus of Project HEART is identifying individuals who may have potential claims regarding property – immovable, movable (such as jewelry, art, Judaica), or intangible personal property (such as stocks, bonds, insurance policies) that were confiscated, looted, or forcibly sold during the era of the Shoah.
“The issue of identifying Jewish property is still a central challenge even 70 years after World War II,” noted Deputy Minister of Senior Citizens Dr. Lea Nass. “In order to promote this issue, we need to put international pressure and do all that we can to obtain justice for the survivors, the Holocaust victims and their families. This cooperation is an important step in the long road towards identifying and restituting Jewish property.”
“No doubt that having the New York State Comptroller on our side in the efforts to retrieve Jewish property that was not yet returned is a major achievement,” said Bobby Brown, Project HEART’s Director. “80% of Europe’s Jews were murdered, and almost all of their property was stolen or confiscated and was never returned. We will do all that we can to succeed in this important mission. I thank all the people of conscience who have responded to our efforts, and those who have and will help Project HEART in its attempts to do justice for survivors and heirs.”
Project HEART is a global effort, led by the Jewish Agency for Israel in cooperation with the government of Israel that seeks to reach Jewish victims of the Holocaust and their heirs. The project’s goal is to record relevant information about personal property that was confiscated, looted or forcibly sold as a result of the Nazi occupation, and which has never been restituted. The ultimate aim of Project HEART is to provide the tools, strategy and information that will enable the Israeli government, Project HEART and their partners to secure a measure of justice for eligible Jewish victims and their heirs on behalf of the Jewish people.
New York State law requires banks, insurance companies, utilities, investment companies and many other businesses to turn over inactive accounts to the state. These funds are held in trust until they are claimed by their rightful owners. Types of unclaimed funds include insurance claims, checks that were never cashed, old bank accounts, wages, utility deposits, stocks and dividends.
Individuals can perform free searches for unclaimed funds through the New York State Comptroller’s website, www.osc.state.ny.us or by calling 1-800-221-9311. Those who are interested in participating in Project HEART can fill out a questionnaire on the organization’s website, www.heartwebsite.org, or they can call (414) 961-7417.