In late 1998 representatives of forty-four governments and thirteen non-governmental agencies gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss issues regarding property and money seized by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Over the four days of the conference, delegates addressed the Nazi confiscation of art, insurance claims, communal property, libraries, and archives, and reviewed recent movements in Holocaust education, remembrance, and research. This work provides the full text of these proceedings, from the preparatory organizing seminars and roundtable discussions to the concluding statements made by each country’s delegation.
Notable speakers include Miles Lerman, Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, Stuart Eizenstat, U.S. Under Secretary of State, Abner J. Mikva, Conference Chairman, Elie Wiesel, Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State, who delivered the keynote address. Twenty-nine different delegations from countries in Europe and the Americas, and from organizations like the American Jewish Committee, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and the World Jewish Restitution Organization, contributed statements, most of which address the current state of their restitution activities.
An impressive list of scholars and specialists in plenary sessions and “break-out” discussions examined the issues pertaining to the major types of Holocaust-era assets. These sessions brought together individuals from the myriad sides of the assets controversy. Insurance commissioners met with Allianz AG, one of the insurance companies accused in a New York lawsuit of withholding payments for Nazi victims; scholars and archivists advocating open access to relevant materials heard from a Vatican representative explaining the Holy See’s practice of slow, studied release of records; and German officials shared the stage with Jewish restitution organizations. In addition, representatives from some of the leading Holocaust museums or memorial institutions, including the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, and Yad Vashem, discussed practices and projects in Holocaust education, research, and remembrance.
The main text is followed by sixteen appendices providing conference-related or supplemental information. Among these appendices are the daily schedule of events for the Conference, a full list of Conference participants, and reproductions of over sixty pages of Nazi documents released by the Russian archives in conjunction with the Conference.
With full-text reprints of all the formal remarks given at the Conference, this work is a hefty 1146 pages. The absence of an index hampers the publication’s usefulness, but a detailed table of contents broken down by statement or asset type does help guide the user to appropriate materials. Though the researcher then has to read the submissions in their entirety to find particular points, the focus and import of these documents should make the effort worthwhile.
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