Goodwill Fund

Although the Claims Conference became the successor to unclaimed Jewish properties under German law, it established the Goodwill Fund in 1994 in order to enable former Jewish original owners and their heirs to receive a payment even after the German deadline of 1992. Through the Goodwill Fund, certain former owners and heirs could apply for the proceeds of properties or compensation payments that the German restitution authorities had awarded to the Claims Conference net of an assessment for services.

In 1998, in a major advertising campaign, the Claims Conference informed the general public that owners or heirs who had failed to meet the legal deadlines of December 31, 1992/June 30, 1993 for filing claims for Jewish assets in the former East Germany may be eligible to participate in the Claims Conference Goodwill Fund. The Board of Directors of the Claims Conference established December 31, 1998 as the original deadline for applications to the Goodwill Fund (a deadline that was subsequently extended).

The Goodwill Fund guidelines include applicants who filed within the Goodwill Fund deadline of December 31, 1998, who could prove that they would have succeeded under the German Property Restitution Law had they filed within the legislation’s 1992 deadline as well as certain applicants who filed thereafter.

In September 2003, the Claims Conference published a list, to the extent available, of names of original owners of assets that were located in the former East Germany recovered by the Claims Conference or which related to such assets for which claims by the Claims Conference were still pending under the German Property Restitution Law. A total of 59,198 names were published on the internet.

When it published this list, the Claims Conference announced in a follow-up major advertising and media campaign in 100 Jewish newspapers across the world that the final deadline for applications to the Goodwill Fund was March 31, 2004.

The Claims Conference Board of Directors based its decision on the fact that

  • the Goodwill Fund had been accepting applications for ten years
  • if there were no deadline, it would be necessary to cease allocations from the proceeds of these assets which were primarily for homecare and other vital social services for needy Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.

The Board also noted that deadlines had been established by the administering bodies for other major restitution programs such as those for assets in Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, and for the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims.

Amendments to the Goodwill Fund provided for review of certain applications made after March 31, 2004 under special circumstances.

Fixed Goodwill Fund payments are made to certain Goodwill Fund applicants who had applied before the Goodwill Fund deadline with regard to property covered by specific bulk settlements.

Goodwill Fund–Key Events

Following is a timeline of the decisions by the Board of Directors and Officers of the Claims Conference regarding the Goodwill Fund:

  • June 1994: Claims Conference Board of Directors establishes the Equity Fund to receive claims from former owners of property or heirs of former owners who had not filed claims for assets by the German deadline.
  • July 1994: Claims Conference Executive Committee renames the Equity Fund as the Goodwill Fund and establishes a deadline of December 30, 1996 for applications.
  • July 1996: Claims Conference Board extends the deadline for applications to the Goodwill Fund to December 31, 1997.
  • September 1997: Claims Conference Board extends deadline for applications to the Goodwill Fund to December 31, 1998.
  • 1998: To assist heirs, the Claims Conference announces, in more than 100 Jewish newspapers worldwide, the latest extension to the deadline for applications to the Goodwill Fund. The advertisement includes the following offer to assist heirs:

To aid applicants who do not have complete information, the Claims Conference is establishing a Department for Property Identification. If you believe that you or your relatives may have owned Jewish property in the former East Germany, please include as much information as possible in your application and the Department will endeavor to identify such property. Please write to Mr. Peter Heuss, Department for Property Identification, at the above address. There will be no charge for this service.

That department was established in 1998 and assisted many thousands of applicants.

  • July 2000: Claims Conference Board establishes a special committee to review applications received after December 31, 1998.
  • July 2003: Claims Conference Board votes to publish the names of former owners of Jewish assets in the former East Germany that it had either recovered or for which it had received a compensation payment under German restitution law covering East Germany, or for which it had filed claims that were not yet adjudicated. Board also votes to set final Goodwill Fund deadline to be six months after publication of the list. List is published September 30, 2003 (“2003 List”), with subsequent advertising in more than 100 newspapers worldwide and worldwide media coverage. Final deadline is set for March 31, 2004.
  • April 2009: Claims Conference amends the Goodwill Fund guidelines for review of certain applications, including those from original owners or certain heirs who can prove that they were unable to file a claim prior to March 31, 2004, due to medical reasons.
  • November 2010: Claims Conference amends Goodwill Fund guidelines to review claims from certain direct descendants of the certain heirs included in the April 2009 amendment. The Claims Conference also announces that applications to be reviewed for inclusion in the Goodwill Fund on the basis of this amendment and that of April 2009 must be submitted to the Claims Conference no later than December 31, 2011.
  • July 2012: Claims Conference Board of Directors voted to create the Late Applicants Fund to accept applications from certain heirs of former owners of Jewish property/assets located in the former East Germany for which the Claims Conference received proceeds as Successor Organization under the German Property Law 1990. See Late Applicants Fund for more information. The opening of the program receives worldwide media coverage and is advertised around the world.
  • July 2015: CC Board votes that an eligible LAF claimant will receive no less than 33 percent of the portion of the net proceeds of an asset to which the claimant was entitled. The decision enabled the 33 percent payments to commence immediately, without having to wait for the resolution of all LAF claims.

The CC commitment to assisting close relatives who missed the application filing deadline is borne out by the fact that the CC had, as of December 31, 2020, paid approximately €791.163 million under the Goodwill Fund and LAF to original owners, or their heirs, regarding property located in the former East Germany that the CC had recovered or for which it had received related compensation. Included in this amount is approximately €44.88 million that has been paid to eligible LAF claimants as of December 2020. Once the German authorities complete adjudicating the remaining SO claims involving LAF claimants and the Claims Conference closes the SO, any funds remaining of the original €50 million committed to the LAF will be proportionately distributed to eligible claimants.

In total, approximately one-third of SO income has been paid to or set aside for eligible original owners or heirs of assets located in the former East Germany, all of whom would have received no property or payment were it not for the CC’s intensive efforts since 1990.

Updated April 20, 2022