Summary in English
The Committee's mandate is to establish what happened to Jewish property during the Second World War. This includes a description of the rules laid down by the Quisling regime concerning the seizure of Jewish property, the procedure for such seizures, and the estimated value of the property seized. The Committee is also instructed to determine how and to what extent seized assets/property were restored after the war, and their value.
The Committee has divided into a majority and a minority.
2 Summary of the majority report
The majority (the Committee's chairman Oluf Skarpnes and members Thor Falkanger, Eli Fure, Ole Kristian Grimnes, and Guri Sunde) present the following summary of their shared views:
Of the roughly 2,100 Jews who according to the minority's calculations were in Norway at the time of the German invasion, over 1/3 lost their lives and about 1,300 fled to Sweden. Most Jews - whether they died, fled or in a small number of cases survived in Germany or Norway - had their property seized.
In the opinion of the majority, the Committee's main task is to attempt to calculate the total financial loss sustained by the Jews as a result of having their property seized during the Second World War. To do this means finding the difference in value between what was taken from them during the war and what was returned to them after the war. It is this difference which in the event will make up the uncovered losses.
The first step, establishing what was taken from the Jews during the war, is the most difficult. In this connection we have in general two types of information to build on: information dating from the occupation period, and the source material available concerning what was returned to the Jews or what compensation they received after the war. The first material presents the greatest difficulties, being to some extent rather incomplete, and accordingly requiring closer examination. Determination of values must therefore to a considerable extent be based on estimates. The material we have derives principally from the Nasjonal Samling (i.e. the Norwegian Nazi Party) agency which registered and took charge of the estates confiscated from Jews, i.e. the Liquidation Board. Several problems attach to this material. One relates to the valuation of what was seized. This applies especially to movable property and stock of goods. A second problem is that not all the estates are documented. Thirdly, uncertainty attaches to items which were not registered because in one way or another they disappeared before registration was carried out. One important means of checking and correction is available, however, in the reports of losses presented after the war, cf. below.
The second step in the assignment has been to obtain information concerning what was returned to the Norwegian Jews after the war. Information on this point is more reliable, but pressure of time has prevented us from examining all the material in the archives with a bearing on the Committee's work. This source material principally originated with the three institutions which returned and paid compensation for what had been seized from refugees and deportees: the Reparations Office, the Office for war damage, and the Settlements Division of the Ministry of Justice. This material chiefly describes what was restored to the Norwegian Jews after the war. However, it also contains a considerable amount of information on what was taken from them. Very many injured parties applied to the Office for war damage for compensation for losses they had sustained, and some also applied to the Settlements Division of the Ministry of Justice. Naturally they had to state what they had lost and were seeking compensation for. Consequently we have not only the registrations and information of the Nazi authorities on which to base our conclusions, but also the information submitted by Jews themselves when they claimed compensation after the war. In many cases all the members of a Jewish household were killed during deportation. That makes information relating to them less certain, because relatives or others applying on their behalf could not have had detailed knowledge of the scale of the losses.
Nor do we know how much private individuals and public bodies had to return to their rightful owners after the war. Provisions issued by the Nazi authorities and the occupying power were invalid, and everything that had been confiscated could be claimed back by its rightful owner irrespective of the good faith of the person who had acquired it.
Subject to the reservations mentioned above, the Committee's majority has calculated what can be regarded as the uncovered losses sustained by the Norwegian Jews in consequence of having their property seized during the war. The majority's assessment of uncovered losses is to a large extent based on registrations carried out at the Committee's request. Under Committee auspices, extensive research has been carried out into archives, especially at the National Archives of Norway but also at other institutions which hold archives, aimed at arriving at the best possible answers to the questions raised in the mandate. The National Archives hold a large quantity of material which has been of major importance in the Committee's work. To ensure that the archive research was as thorough as possible, the Committee, with the help of hired project assistants, examined all the wartime and postwar estate files, i.e. the documents from the Liquidation Board and from the Reparations Office. Material has also been obtained from, among other places, the postwar administration of estates relating to Jews who were killed. Using computers, the project assistants registered the equivalent value in money of confiscated and returned assets and compensation at the individual level. Confiscated assets were registered under the following headings: cash, bank deposits, policies, shares/bonds, other (collected claims, rent revenues, yields on real property), stocks, and movable property. In the opinion of the majority, loss of earnings, if any, sustained during the war because the enterprises of Jews were seized and realised, and after the war because their enterprises had to restart, falls outside the mandate. The same applies to other forms of loss of income during the period of seizure.
The majority has calculated possible uncovered losses for the various categories of assets confiscated from Norwegian Jews. Despite the relatively extensive archive research which has been carried out, and on which the valuations are based, the valuations must for most categories of assets to some extent be discretionary. For the various categories of assets, moreover, the valuations are aggregates. They do not provide a basis for estimating uncovered losses sustained, as the case may be, by individual Jews or Jewish enterprises.
The greatest uncertainty attaching to the majority's calculations of the amount of the loss relates to the valuations in the stock of goods and movable property (furniture and other movable property) categories. This is explained in more detail in the majority's reasons. The uncertainty in these categories arises in part because it has to be assumed that in a number of cases assets were concealed or removed in other ways prior to registration, whereas the amounts involved are not known. A further consideration is that the liquidation sales that were carried out usually entail lower value in money than normal sales. The majority has therefore been obliged to devise ways of adjusting the value upwards, especially where those categories of assets are concerned, as explained in the reasons given for the majority's calculations.
In the public debate on this issue, it has been maintained that Norwegian Jews only received 68 % after the war of what they had lost during the war. The majority argues that this is to take too narrow a view. In the opinion of the majority, it is not possible to express what they lost as a percentage. One reason is that many assets, such as real estate and some movable property, were restored. In addition, bank deposits were re-established with interest, and incurancepolicies were also restored. Compensation was also paid by the Office for war damage and by the Settlements Division of the Ministry of Justice.
The majority is moreover of the opinion that the task of restoration and compensation after the war was well and thoroughly performed. But not only was Norwegian society economically in dire straits, it also had to face enormous reconstruction costs. The rules for the Office for war damage, for instance, had for those reasons been drawn up so as to give them a social profile, which implied among other things that injured parties who were well off received reduced compensation. In this connection the majority adds that in its opinion it was generally assumed internationally that the state was under no legal obligation to cover damage sustained by the civilian population as a result of encroachments by the occupying authority or its Nazi helpers. Our lawful government in London had no means of preventing the encroachments, but objected to them strenuously.
The majority notes that the rules for compensation to Norwegian Jews and non-Jews were the same and must be viewed in the light of the historical conditions prevailing in 1945. Ten thousand Norwegians had lost their lives through acts of war 1939-45; forty to fifty thousand persons had been political prisoners; Finnmark and Nord-Troms had been laid waste; and according to calculations available today, overall real capital had been reduced by 14 %. Society had a self-evident duty to help those who were unable to manage because of the war, or whose financial losses had been so great that it would be difficult for them to get started again after the occupation. Such assistance was both a part of the «reconstruction» and a contribution to it: people had to be given the necessary means of participation in the country's recovery. It was not economically possible to grant full compensation, either to Jewish or to non-Jewish Norwegians, for the losses they sustained during the war. The nation as a whole had lost. Individual citizens accordingly had to accept that their postwar lives would begin with financial loss and diminished welfare.
Despite the extensive investigations that have been carried out, it has proved impossible to quantify the Jewish losses precisely. On the contrary, it needs to be emphasised that the Committee's majority has to a large extent had to exercise judgement. The majority has, however, attached great importance to making clear where it has exercised discretion, and on what assumptions.
The Committee's majority has estimated that the total loss amounts to NOK 6,538,200 in 1946/47 krone values. It is proposed, on a discretionary overall assessment, that the amount be raised to NOK 8,000,000. Applying the present krone value (May 1997), this amounts to NOK 108,8 million. The majority proposes that this figure is rounded off to NOK 110 million.
The Committee is not instructed in its mandate to recommend the amount of a central government allocation, if any, or the form in which a payment should in the event be made. A majority within the majority (Falkanger, Fure, Grimnes and Sunde) discuss some models for dealing with the matter: settlement in full, cover for losses sustained by Jews because the application of the same rules for Jewish and non-Jewish Norwegians worked in the Jews' disfavour, or a sum in token of acknowledgement. A payment or token payment can be made either individually or collectively. The chairman of the Committee, Skarpnes, recommends that central government allocate the amount of the financial loss estimated by the majority, and that ex gratia compensation payments be made to injured parties or their descendants in respect of such individual losses as may be reported and shown to be probable. The remainder of the allocation can then be devoted to collective Jewish purposes. The other members of the majority do not wish to take a position on whether any amount should be paid or in the event how much or to whom.
3 Summary of the views of the minority of the Committee of Inquiry, consisting of Berit Reisel and Bjarte Bruland
The economic liquidation of the Norwegian Jews during World War II was total. The Norwegian Jews were deprived of all rights of ownership and any kind of business base. This led to economic losses in the broadest sense of the term, in that an entire religious, cultural, economic and social community was destroyed. The Committee's mandate was to conduct a survey of the facts of the case and of the amount of funds which were returned to the Norwegian Jews after the war. In the view of the minority, this means that all circumstances with a bearing on the case must be brought to light. It also means that the entire situation must be examined without regard to whether or not the present-day Norwegian authorities can be regarded as legally responsible for the losses incurred, and without regard to the extent to which other Norwegian citizens also suffered losses.
The methods employed by the Committee in its investigation were a study of general source materials, examination of registrations in estate files (i.e. the files that were opened on each estate) and a study of the records relating to the administration of estates. These approaches provide different sorts of information and have different kinds of limitations. They must therefore be seen in context if they are to contribute to an overview of the entire liquidation and reparation process.
In 1941-1942 the Jewish population of Norway consisted of approximately 1000 households numbering a total of 2173 individuals. These families lived mainly in Oslo and Trondheim, but the sources show that there were Jews living in over 60 municipalities throughout the country. The Jewish minority was primarily involved in the business sector. Norwegian Jews owned 401 enterprises. Approximately 40 individuals were members of professions (doctors, dentists and lawyers). The remainder were craftsmen and artists. Few were employed in the public sector, or as farmers or fishermen. There were two main communities, in Oslo and Trondheim. In both cities the Jewish population enjoyed a lively cultural life, and the Jewish communities operated many religious institutions and cultural organizations which ran various educational and welfare programmes. There were also old-age homes and an orphanage. In Oslo and Trondheim there were three synagogues as well as centres for religious studies. Both communities had mortuaries, and there were three cemeteries.
In order to understand the economic losses incurred by the Jewish minority during World War II, the physical and economic liquidation of the Jews must be regarded as two aspects of the same crime, sharing the following systematically organized features: restriction of rights, segregation and isolation, confiscation and economic liquidation, deportation, and physical liquidation. In other words, the liquidation was compound, and its objective was the complete annihilation of the Jews as a group. The methods used to achieve the economic part of the goal ensured that the religious and cultural centres, together with the property and businesses of Jewish families, were liquidated as though they were bankrupt estates. The purpose of this was to enable the Nazi authorities to seize control of the property while also ensuring that all Jewish business operations ceased.
These economic measures were carried out as a result of the Norwegian Act of 26 October 1942 relating to the confiscation of property belonging to Jews. This Act must not be regarded as an example of ordinary legislation, but as a way of legitimizing certain types of actions within an ideological system. Through this Act the economic liquidation was formalized, but source materials indicate that the liquidation process as such began before it was given formal expression in the Act. As a result, many Jewish estates were liquidated without having been formally registered. The process of formalizing the economic liquidation was closely connected with the process of physical liquidation of the Norwegian Jews, and indeed, the deportations began immediately after the economic liquidation process had begun. It would obviously not have been possible to implement such a complete liquidation of the property and assets of an entire group of people if plans for internment or deportation had not been prepared in advance. A total of 767 Jews were deported from Norway. Thirty survived. The remainder of the Jews who had lived in Norway fled the country.
The formalized liquidation process was based on the principle that each estate would be settled as though it were bankrupt. For the same reason, each individual household was converted into a joint ownership with one individual in the home, usually the husband, designated as the owner. This meant that each unit (household or business) was transformed into a fixed quantity, on the condition that the unit continued to exist as a legal person, so that the current expenses could continue to be charged to the estate even after liquidation had taken place.
The collective aspect of the economic liquidation of the Norwegian Jews was of major significance. It meant that households were often merged, and income and expenditures resulting from the liquidation were allocated at the discretion of the authorities. This was often done to ensure the most efficient and time-saving procedures possible for those in charge of the liquidation. Many Jewish businesses were also merged in this way. Another aspect of this collective form of liquidation was that the property was distributed according to certain distribution formulas, in which a large proportion of the most valuable assets were not registered. This included, in particular, gold, silver and jewellery, which were given as «a voluntary contribution to the war effort» under the terms of an agreement between the Quisling regime and the German authorities in Norway. Nor were watches, furs, paintings, office equipment, wholesale stocks of goods, or many other valuable objects registered. In addition, a large amount of valuable assets were looted.
The assets which were registered were, in theory, to be sold. Many assets, however, were stolen or distributed to Nazis or Nazi organizations. The profits from the assets which were sold formed the basis for what is called the joint Jewish assets. By the end of the war the Liquidation Board had used approximately 30 per cent of these assets for its own administration.
After the war the complicated process of reparation began. Everyone from whom property had been stolen, Jews and non-Jews alike, should, in principle, have been able to demand its return. However, this proved to be impossible, one of the reasons being that the financial basis for reparation was no longer intact. In addition, the authorities established a complex system of regulations based on two main principles which they regarded as important in postwar reparation efforts: equalization and reconstruction. The rules laid down according to these principles were designed to determine the amount of reparation each applicant should receive in proportion to what he had lost. The equalization principle was implemented by calculating reductions according to a special scale. The result of this system was that the greater the loss, the smaller the percentage of compensation. The reconstruction principle was implemented by making special reductions in the estate for each family member who had died.
These principles of compensation had particularly far-reaching consequences for the Jews, due to the collective and total nature of the liquidation, and to the unique pattern of deaths. Thus, 230 families were totally annihilated, and the remaining families experienced serious losses. According to the reparations agencies, the survivors were not considered eligible for full compensation, because this compensation was based on assumptions about the applicants' ability to reconstruct their prewar lives and businesses. They were either given reduced compensation or were simply not taken into consideration at all when compensation was paid out, even when they were legal heirs. Another area of concern for the reparations agencies was that if Jews were to inherit from their deceased relatives, «they would acquire funds to which they would not have had access under normal circumstances».
As a result of the unique pattern of deaths, the compensation paid out by the reparations agencies followed two different courses: one for the survivors who were registered as having funds in the joint Jewish assets, and one for the heirs of those thus registered. People in the second category might be members of the same household as the registered owner of funds in the joint Jewish assets, but since they were not registered as the owner, they had no right to claim their inheritance until the registered owner was declared legally deceased. Because the Jewish people had been the victims of genocide, not of ordinary acts of war, there was no information available as to the date of death. Moreover, no death certificates had been issued. This meant that rather than being regarded as legally deceased, the murder victims were, until the autumn of 1947, classified as missing. In 1947 efforts were begun to reclassify those missing as dead, and to devise an order of deaths for each family. For instance, in cases where a mother and her children had been sent into the gas chamber together, the reparations agencies had to determine in which order they died, so as to determine the heir's place in the order of inheritance. All of these complications meant that the process of settling the estates was protracted, usually lasting from eight to ten years, or even longer; the last settlements for which we have information took place in 1987. Due to the length of this process, the expenses charged to the estates were extremely high. The estates of the deceased amounted to half of the estates which were awarded funds from the reparations agencies.
It is not unusual to define estates of deceased persons as legal persons with a financial obligation, as if they were part of the normal fellowship of society and bound by its rules. This is a normal legal procedure. However, this situation was not normal; it was motivated by the intention to annihilate the whole Jewish minority in Europe, i.e. Shoah (the Holocaust). Annihilation on this scale cannot be equated with ordinary deaths, and ordinary legal procedures for settling estates are thus not appropriate in such a context.
The economic losses which can be documented were from those parts of the property which were registered and sold. This applied to property which had belonged to approximately 75 per cent of the Jewish population. However, the material indicates that the value of estates which were not registered was at least as large. The total of the joint Jewish assets can thus be estimated, and amounted to NOK 23 million in 1940 values. According to the Statistics Norway price index, this amount multiplied by 19.07 equals today's value. And as previously mentioned, not all property was included in the joint Jewish assets. The categories not included were the value of the property distributed according to the distribution formulas, losses incurred due to the destruction of the Jewish enterprises which formed the economic basis of the Jewish community, and other losses which cannot be quantified but which clearly had economic consequences. The total scope of the economic loss, therefore, is considerably higher than the calculated estimate of the joint Jewish assets would indicate.
The reparations agencies awarded NOK 7,854,758.10 in 1947 values to 893 of the total of 1381 seized households and businesses. Today's value can be obtained by multiplying this sum by 13.59. A total of 35.3 per cent of the estates received no reparations, and 55.5 per cent received less than NOK 1,000 each. In the case of 163 estates, the settlement ended in a debit balance. In other words, the estate was in debt to the reparations agencies because the current expenses had exceeded the value of the original estate.
However, the total economic burden placed on the Norwegian Jews through the procedure of liquidating estates during the war, and through the settlement and division of estates after the war, was greater than the amount eventually awarded by the reparations agencies. Although not all expenses charged to the estates reverted to the state treasury, most did so, and in addition, the State itself inherited several estates. The special nature of this situation was due to the character and extent of the economic liquidation of property, as well as to the unique pattern of deaths caused by the systematic physical liquidation of the Norwegian Jews.