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Norway To Aid Holocaust Victims

March 11, 1999

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Norway’s parliament approved a $57.7 million package Thursday to compensate the nation’s Jews for suffering during World War II, a measure that Jewish leaders hailed as ``a moral and ethical settlement.″

In an unanimous vote, the lawmakers adopted a package that will compensate Jewish families for at least some of the property that was plundered by the Nazis and fund projects for the Jewish community.

About one-third of Norway’s pre-war community of 2,100 Jews died in the Holocaust. When survivors returned from Nazi concentration camps, they got little help from the government, which was struggling to recover from the 1940-45 Nazi occupation.

Much of their property had been seized, and was never returned. Now _ more than five decades after the war’s end _ Norway’s leaders are trying to make amends.

``No one can buy a clear conscience,″ said Jan Simonsen of the Party of Progress during the 45-minute debate on the bill. ``The treatment of Norwegian Jews will remain a black mark that can never been wiped clean.″

The compensation package offers up to $26,000 apiece to families for property stolen from individual Jews during the war, or $25.6 million in all. The remainder will be used as collective compensation for the Jewish community.

``This was a moral and ethical settlement,″ said Robert Katz, president of Norway’s main Jewish congregation in Oslo. ``I was in parliament for the debate, and it was very clear that they understood this was a symbolic way of seeking forgiveness.″

The Party of Progress, the second largest party in parliament, had argued that the upper limit for individual compensation was far too low, considering the vast fortunes lost by some families. It proposed a limit of $260,000, but supported the government’s proposal when its own bill was rejected.

``An economic settlement always has limits, and money isn’t everything. This is an expression of Norwegian solidarity with the Jewish community,″ said Tor Nymo, a Center Party legislator who oversaw passage of the bill. The Center Party is one of three parties that comprise the minority government.

The collective settlement was divided into three parts: $19.2 million to registered Jewish congregations in Norway, $5.1 million for a Holocaust and minority studies center in Norway, and $7.7 million to nurture Jewish society outside Norway.

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