On receipt of the archive documents, the case-files are handed to the Principal Rapporteur who allocates them to individual rapporteurs for investigation.
Interviewing claimants is necessary for a proper understanding of the files and constitutes a significant stage in the rapporteurs’ achieving their three objectives:
First, to listen: This side to their work is essential. Indeed, for the claimants, remembering the war and the ordeals they lived through is a very great trial, charged with intense emotion. We find that regardless of their own personal story, many feel the need to unburden themselves and bear witness to a tragic period from which there are fewer and fewer survivors.
Second: enlighten claimants about what happened to their family in the Occupation by sharing the documents retrieved from the archives relating to their next-of-kin with them, about which they had no knowledge until then. For many, these documents make up the only traces of a painful past which they are once again called to face. They attach as much importance to these documents as to the compensation they await.
Third, to first explore with claimants who are the heirs and successors entitled to the compensation, which comes down researching the order of devolution of the estate, in some cases necessitating the drawing up a family tree; in order then to be able to finalize the offer of compensation which the rapporteurs will put before the Commission.
It is often the case that these interviews are a means for claimants, particularly when acting in the capacity of heirs and successors of direct victims who have disappeared, to learn of the existence of spoliations uncovered by the archive searches of which they were unaware and which they had not therefore included in their initial claim. The reverse also occurs whereby claimants disclose spoliations they had neglected to mention in their application. Fresh investigations must then be carried out.
Once the evaluation is completed, the rapporteurs inform the claimants and seek their comments. They then draw up a written report recalling the circumstances of the spoliations suffered and setting out their estimate of the losses resulting therefrom with an indication of the claimants’ stance as regards what is proposed.
The reports are handed to the Principal Rapporteur who, after checking, passes them to the Commission Secretariat, together with his advice on what form the panel to hear the case should take: the Chairman, ruling alone pursuant to the decree of June 20, 2001; a sub-committee or the full Commission in plenary session. Where the case is referred to a committee, the rapporteur attends the session during which he makes a verbal presentation of his report and answers questions from the members of the Commission, the claimant and the Government Commissioner.
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