From 4 September 2015, claimants or their surviving relatives can apply for refunds of unclaimed credit balances in the Gemeentegiro Amsterdam (Amsterdam Municipal Giro System) and wrongfully imposed penalties for ground rent arrears during World War II. Claims will be processed by the Amsterdam Individual Repayments Foundation (SITA), an independent body established on the initiative of the City of Amsterdam and charged with the task of investigating, assessing and settling repayment claims. SITA has now completed its preparatory activities and will begin accepting applications. For more information about the foundation’s procedures and contact details, see www.stichtingita.com.
An investigation of the Gemeentegiro archives, conducted by Mr H.G.M. Blocks in 2012 and 2013, succeeded in tracing all accounts that became dormant during the war years. For many of them, the credit balance was never claimed after the war, and remained on deposit in the Gemeentegiro. They comprise a total of 789 private accounts and 99 business accounts in the Gemeentegiro which were designated as holding unclaimed credit balances between 1940 and 1949, and for which it appears that no withdrawals were honoured during the period investigated (1940 to 1954).
In addition, the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies has conducted research on penalties for ground rent arrears that were imposed on Amsterdam citizens on their return from concentration camps, imprisonment or hiding. This investigation has produced a list of 240 leaseholders by whom or on behalf of whom a legitimate objection against the penalty was submitted, but for whom the penalty was not waived, or was waived only in part.
On 10 December 2014, Amsterdam City Council resolved that these unclaimed credit balances and wrongfully imposed penalties should be repaid to claimants or their surviving relatives. The City of Amsterdam has appointed a specially established foundation, SITA, to investigate and assess applications, and to settle those claims found to be legitimate.
Claimants can submit their applications to SITA. Further information, application forms and the lists and reports referred to above are available from the foundation’s website. It is expected that the processing of applications will take three to six months. Where claims for the repayment of wrongfully imposed ground rent penalties are honoured by the foundation, refunds will be paid to the claimants by the City of Amsterdam, with the addition of interest. Where claims for unclaimed credit balances are honoured by the foundation, the payments will be made by ING Bank (as the legal successor to the Gemeentegiro), also with the addition of interest.
The balance from the Gemeentegiro that can be claimed varies from case to case. The 789 private accounts and 88 business accounts hold an original combined balance in guilders of NLG 3,841.19, which with the addition of interest now amounts to €52,130.56. This is an average of €58.71 per account.
The amount that can be claimed for wrongfully imposed ground rent penalties (the penalty minus any amount already waived) also varies. In some cases further investigation is required to determine the precise amount. For the 240 cases published on the list, the original combined amount is approximately NLG 35,000, which with the addition of interest now amounts to more than €430,000. This is an average of €1,800 per case.
An amount greater than €430,000 has been reserved, namely €820,000. This is the result of an estimate made on the basis of the City of Amsterdam’s figures for all penalties paid during the period concerned, including those for which no objection was submitted. See Table 3 on page 29 of the NIOD report, which arrives at a total of €821,017.13.
Objections were submitted for around half the penalties imposed at the time. Claims may of course also be made for refunds of wrongfully imposed penalties for which no objection was submitted. Such claims will take longer to investigate and settle, because records are only available for cases in which an objection was submitted.
Refunds of ground rent penalties will be paid with the addition of interest. Any previously waived amount will be deducted.
Hard to trace
The survivors or their heirs are not easy to trace. A limited number of people have already been in contact in response to earlier reporting on the affair, and they will be approached personally by SITA. But for a substantial number of potential claimants, no contact details are currently available. SITA will make every effort to contact as many claimants as possible, so that they can decide whether they wish to submit an application. The foundation is therefore appealing not only to the survivors and their heirs, but also to their friends and acquaintances, to draw the attention of potential claimants to the existence of the foundation, and to consult the website: www.stichtingita.com. This appeal will also be made via advertisements in conventional media and posts on social media.
Remainder donated to charity
The total amount of credit balances and ground rent penalties that remain unclaimed will be donated to one or more yet to be determined charities within the Jewish community.