The European Shoah Legacy Institute was incorporated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic on January 20, 2010 as a follow-up to the Terezin Declaration endorsed by representatives of 47 states, who met in June 2009 in Prague and Terezin at the Holocaust Era Assets Conference organized by the Czech Presidency of the European Union Council.

This public benefit corporation was founded to seek – in cooperation with governments, non-governmental organizations and independent experts – systemic solutions on an international level leading to restitution of immovable property, art, Judaica and Jewish cultural assets stolen by the Nazis; provision of adequate social welfare to Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and other victims of Nazism; and promotion of Holocaust education, research and remembrance.

The Institute serves both as a voluntary forum for exchange of views, sharing of experience, and articulation of needs and priorities. At the same time, it is a vehicle or a catalyst for the parties already active in this field, helping them to identify and develop best practices and guidelines of work.

The sphere of action of the Institute is international. It operates in affiliation with the European Union and with European countries inside and outside of the EU. The Institute also has a close working relationship with non-European states, particularly the United States and Israel.

As tasked expressly by the Terezin Declaration, the Institute has fostered the inter-governmental negotiations and subsequent publication in Prague, on June 9, 2010, of the Guidelines and Best Practices for the Restitution and Compensation of Immovable Property Confiscated during the Holocaust Era, a document of unprecedented historical significance, which furnishes a framework for its signatory states to promote the resolution of this still open issue of great moral urgency, which was treated previously only to a limited extent particularly in countries of Eastern Europe.

Aside from promoting the issue of restitution or compensation for Holocaust era assets, the Institute participates in a wide range of other activities dealing with the legacy of the Shoah in all its aspects (for more information see section entitled Participation in Projects).