Asset Restitution and Indemnification
Stolen valuables hidden in the Merker salt mine.
National Archives (Photo #80500)
As the Second World War came to an end in 1945, the Western world was buried in the remnants of Nazi destruction, facing a long and difficult recovery. Many Jewish organizations anticipated the road ahead, preparing and planning restitution efforts before the closing stages of the War, yet once the time came to implement these plans, unforeseen obstacles appeared, particularly the Allies’ quandary over stabilizing versus punishing Germany. In trying to avoid the mistakes of World War I, the Allies chose first to steady the economically and politically tottering country. This decision meant that repercussions for Nazi atrocities would have to be set aside temporarily. By 1953, though, with some economic stability reestablished, the German government signed the Luxemburg agreements with Israel, obligating them to pay reparations for Nazi policies and aggression.
In the years that followed, as the displaced persons crisis waned, the remaining restitution issues lost their urgency, leaving the matter to linger for several decades. Although Switzerland engaged in cursory restitution talks in the 1950s, no settlements were devised. These issues found a rejuvenated forum, however, in the 1990s with the exposure of Swiss banking practices during the war. A series of articles published in an Israeli financial daily revealed Switzerland’s resistance to returning looted assets to the rightful owners or their heirs. This controversy prompted the United States and an Independent Committee to reinvestigate the fate of these assets. These inquiries expanded the realm of Nazi era claims, revealing a variety of additional issues, including the dispersal of unclaimed life insurance benefits, cultural institutions’ acquisition of looted art and artifacts, corporations profiting through years of forced labor, and Switzerland’s role as the major financial mediator of the Nazi war machine.
A few of these issues have obtained some legal closure in recent years. In 1998, the Swiss banks agreed to pay $1.25 billion in benefits to still-unknown claimants for future dispersal. That same year, Germany’s new chancellor vowed to make amends to Nazi forced laborers, a promise kept two years later when the Bundestag established the Foundation, “Remembrance, Responsibility, and Future.” But other restitution issues continue to be investigated and negotiated, and given the complexity of these matters, this process might continue for years to come.
This bibliography was compiled to guide readers to selected materials on Holocaust-era asset restitution and indemnification that are in the Library’s collection. It is not meant to be exhaustive. Annotations are provided to help the user determine the item’s focus, and call numbers for the Museum’s Library are given in parentheses following each citation. Those unable to visit might be able to find these works in a nearby public library or acquire them through interlibrary loan. Follow the “Find in a library near you” link in each citation and enter your zip code at the Open WorldCat search screen. The results of that search indicate all libraries in your area that own that particular title. Talk to your local librarian for assistance.
Authers, John, and Richard Wolffe. The Victim’s Fortune: Inside the Epic Battle Over the Debts of the Holocaust. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. (D 810 .C8 A88 2002) [Find in a library near you]
Narrates the intense process surrounding recent efforts to reclaim Holocaust-era assets through the experiences of key individuals, including Israel Singer and Stuart Eizenstat. Aims to convey the politics, events, and emotions that influenced how this quest came to fruition. Includes the names, occupations, and roles of the individuals portrayed, chapter notes, and an index.
Beker, Avi, editor. The Plunder of Jewish Property during the Holocaust. New York: New York University Press, 2001. (D 810 .C8 P58 2001) [Find in a library near you]
A collection of recent essays highlighting the issue of plundered Jewish assets and the role most Western European countries played in it, including Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, France, Norway, Austria, Netherlands, and Great Britain. Includes extensive notes and an index.
Bindenagel, J. D., editor. Washington Conference on Holocaust-era Assets, November 30-December 3, 1998: Proceedings. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1999. (D 810 .C8 W37 1999) [Find in a library near you]
The complete collection of papers and statements presented at the Washington Conference on Holocaust-era Assets, featuring contributions from notable scholars and participation from the leading Holocaust memorial institutions. Explores a plethora of issues spawned by the Swiss banking scandal, and surveys the Nazis’ use of pillaging as a method to subjugate victims, bolster Nazi “superiority,” and sustain the war. Includes reproductions of Nazi documents released by Russian archives in conjunction with the Conference. Also available online at http://www.state.gov/www/regions/eur/holocaust/heac.html.
Eizenstat, Stuart E. Imperfect Justice: Looted Assets, Slave Labor, and the Unfinished Business of World War II. New York: Public Affairs, 2003. (D 804.7 .E26 E59 2003) [Find in a library near you]
An inside look at the Holocaust restitution negotiations of the late 1990s. Recounts the political and diplomatic battles over the issues of dormant bank accounts, slave labor, confiscated property, looted art, and unpaid insurance policies, examining the often difficult negotiations with the Swiss, the Germans, the French, the Austrians, and various Jewish organizations involved in these controversies. Includes photos, end notes, and an index.
Junz, Helen B. Where Did All the Money Go?: The Pre-Nazi Wealth of European Jewry. Berne: Staempfli Publishers, 2002. (D 804.7 .E26 U86 2002) [Find in a library near you]
A close economic and statistical analysis that seeks to estimate the wealth of European Jewry in Austria, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland on the eve of Nazi domination of the region. Particularly tries to provide some indication of the amount of assets that could have been moved to safe haven destinations. Includes numerous data tables, a chronology of anti-Jewish laws, and a bibliography.
Kirby, James. My Mother’s Diamonds: In Search of the Holocaust Assets. London: Allen & Unwin, 1999. (DS 135 .A88 K57 1999) [Find in a library near you]
Reviews the history of restitution negotiations, beginning with the Washington Agreement between Switzerland and the Allies in 1946 through the renewed dialogue of the 1990s. Particularly examines the Swiss banks controversy, but also addresses restitution claims against the Dresdner Bank and international insurance companies, as well as efforts to reclaim lost property, looted art, and stolen coins. Includes endnotes, a bibliography, and an index.
Slany, William Z., Stuart Eizenstat, et al. U.S. and Allied Efforts to Recover and Restore Gold and Other Assets Stolen or Hidden by Germany during World War II: Preliminary Study. Washington, DC: Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of the Historian, 1997. (D 810 .C8 S53 1997) [Find in a library near you]
Surveys United States and Allied efforts to return assets stolen by the Nazis to the rightful owners and to use remaining German assets to reconstruct war-torn Europe. Highlights Switzerland’s role as a primary agent in the movement of Nazi gold and stolen assets. Based on seven months of research on more than 15 million pages of documents at the National Archives. Also available online at http://www.state.gov/www/regions/eur/ngrpt.pdf.
Zweig, Ronald W. German Reparations and the Jewish World: A History of the Claims Conference. Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2001. (DS 140 .Z84 2001) [Find in a library near you]
Assesses the impact the Claims Conference allocations had on stimulating the recovery of Holocaust victims. Also examines the efforts of the Conference and other major Jewish organizations, such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the World Jewish Conference, and the American Jewish Committee, in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Jewish community. Includes biographical information on key individuals within the Conference, as well as an extensive bibliography and an index.
Early Assessment and Compensation ↑
Barzel, Neima. “Dignity, Hatred, and Memory -- Reparations from Germany: The Debates in the 1950s,” Yad Vashem Studies 24 (1994): 247-280. (DS 135 .E83 Y3 v. 24) [Find in a library near you]
Traces the problematic development of reparations negotiations between Israel and Germany through the 1940s and 1950s. Details the political conflicts in Israel arising from the State’s policy to boycott interactions with Germany, its involvement in reparations negotiations for economic reasons, and the opponents’ fear that reparations would offer Germany a way to end their accountability for the Holocaust.
Institute of Jewish Affairs. The (West German) Federal Compensation Law (BEG) and its Implementary Regulations. New York: Institute of Jewish Affairs, 1957. (D 819 .G3 W382 1957) [Find in a library near you]
The full English translation of the Bundesentschädigungsgesetz, the West German Compensation Law for victims of the Holocaust. Includes three supplementary regulations covering the issues of death, health impairment, and destruction of professional pursuits. Also provides the English translation of the beneficiary application form and a list of submission locations.
Kapralik, Charles I. Reclaiming the Nazi Loot: The History of the Work of the Jewish Trust Corporation for Germany: A Report. London: Jewish Trust Corporation, 1962-71. (D 819 .G3 R43 1962-71) [Find in a library near you]
Recounts the first ten years of the Jewish Trust Corporation’s efforts to trace and recover heirless Jewish property in the British and French occupation zones. Discusses the challenges and tactics that affected the success of the Corporation. Includes numerous photos, graphs and tables, appendices, and an index.
Swiss Banking ↑
Bower, Tom. Nazi Gold: The Full Story of the Fifty-year Swiss-Nazi Conspiracy to Steal Billions from Europe’s Jews and Holocaust Survivors. New York: HarperCollins, 1997. (HG 3204 .B68 1997) [Find in a library near you]
Relates the story of the Swiss banks and their ability to avoid returning monies due to the victims of the Nazi regime, reconstructing events as they unfolded after 1945. Derived primarily from archival documents and personal interviews with victims and witnesses. Includes notes, a bibliography, and an index.
Investigative Reports: Blood Money: Switzerland’s Nazi Gold [videorecording]. New York: Distributed by New Video Group, 1997. (Video Collection) [Find in a library near you]
Offers background to the Swiss banking scandal regarding Nazi victim assets and investigates the Swiss assertion that records of victim assets had been misplaced. Speculates on the amount and eventual fate of those assets. Contains interviews with claimants, investigators, and political officials, including Swiss President Kaspar Villager and New York Senator Alfonse D’Amato.
LeBor, Adam. Hitler’s Secret Bankers: The Myth of Swiss Neutrality during the Holocaust. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group, 1999. (HC 58 .L39 1999) [Find in a library near you]
Documents and criticizes Switzerland’s active involvement in enabling Nazi wartime activities, including returning Jewish refugees to the Gestapo, supplying technological expertise for spying activities, and providing the financial avenue for the Nazi war machine. Relies heavily upon recently declassified documentation. Includes notes, a bibliography, and an index.
Levin, Itamar. The Last Deposit: Swiss Banks and Holocaust Victims’ Accounts. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999. (HG 3204 .L4813 1999) [Find in a library near you]
Chronicles the development of the Holocaust deposits scandal, from the pre-war efforts of Jews to secure assets in Switzerland to the continued plight of rightful heirs trying to obtain those assets. Written by the journalist credited with breaking the Swiss banks story. Includes notes, a bibliography, and an index.
Rickman, Gregg J. Swiss Banks and Jewish Souls. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1999. (HG 3204 .R53 1999) [Find in a library near you]
Reconstructs Swiss banking practices during World War II. Focuses on the reassessment of Swiss neutrality in relation to these practices and the exposure of the banks’ indifferent reactions when faced by survivors and family members searching for lost assets. Contains illustrations and an index.
Forced Laborers ↑
Ferencz, Benjamin B. Less than Slaves: Jewish Forced Labor and the Quest for Compensation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002. (D 804.3 .F47 2002) [Find in a library near you]
Evaluates the actions and consequences of German companies that used forced labor during the National Socialist regime, focusing on I.G. Farben, Krupp, Rheinmetal, AEG, and industrialist Friedrich Flick. Examines the ability of these companies to continue sidestepping compensation to those they exploited. Opens with a new introduction by the author, one of the American prosecutors at Nuremberg, reviewing the progress of restitution efforts since the book was first published in 1979. Includes selected affidavits from the Nuremberg trials and an index.
Libonati, Genevieve, editor. The German Remembrance Fund and the Issue of Forced and Slave Labor. Washington, DC: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, 2001. (D 819 .G3 G46 2001) [Find in a library near you]
Discusses the establishment of the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility, and Future,” set up in August 2000 to compensate surviving forced laborers exploited by the National Socialist regime. Gathers selected documents relating to the fund, including an English translation of the law creating the Foundation, an agreement between the United States and Germany concerning the Foundation, and their Joint Statement issued at the conclusion of the final plenary meeting.
Winkler, Ulrike, editor. Stiften gehen: NS-Zwangsarbeit und Entschädigungsdebatte. Köln: PapyRossa, 2000. (HD 4875 .G4 S75 2000) [Find in a library near you]
A collection of essays by experts and scholars from a variety of fields, including economics, history, and political science. Analyzes the forced and slave labor system during the Third Reich. Also addresses the practical, legal, and political difficulties and controversies surrounding the issue of reparation payments to former slave and forced laborers.
Museum Web Resources ↑
International List of Current Activities Regarding Holocaust-Era Assets
Offers a compilation of government and privately sponsored activities set up to trace the fate of Holocaust-era assets. Organized by country and by type of asset. Includes a guide compiled by the Claims Conference for survivors seeking reparations, information on the claims process, and a list of relevant archival resources.
Library: Bibliography on Looted Art
Offers a list of books and additional resources concerning the Nazis’ theft or destruction of art and other cultural treasures during the Second World War. Also includes sources on the role the United States, the Soviet Union, and others played in both plundering and restoring those treasures. Gathered and annotated by the Library staff at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Library: Web Links regarding Victims’ Assets and Restitution
Provides links to government and institutional websites focusing on Holocaust-era assets and restitution, including dormant Swiss bank accounts, insurance claims, and looted art. Also includes a link to recent and ongoing press coverage regarding Holocaust restitution efforts.
Symposium: Confiscation of Jewish Property in Europe, 1933-1945
The full program of the symposium hosted by the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on March 22, 2001, featuring streaming audio files of all twelve presentations. Examines the institutions charged with implementing confiscation policies, the manner in which Jewish assets were seized, and the perspectives of those whose property was confiscated. Also considers the possibilities for and barriers to future research.
Additional Resources ↑
NOTE: In most cases, you may substitute the names of other countries (e.g., Germany, England, etc.) or “Europe” where you see “Switzerland” in the above subject headings. Ask your local librarian for assistance in constructing appropriate subject headings.
Ask at the reference desk to see the subject files labeled “Banks and banking--Switzerland” and “Restitution” containing newspaper and periodical articles.
To search library catalogs or other electronic search tools for materials on asset restitution and indemnification, use the following Library of Congress subject headings to retrieve the most relevant citations:
- Banks and banking--Corrupt practices--Switzerland
- Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany
- Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Reparations
- Restitution and indemnification claims, (1933- )
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