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Asset Restitution and Indemnification

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The Loos Haus, Vienna, 1938. The banner reads, “Those of the same blood belong in the same Reich!” (April 1938)

The Loos Haus, Vienna, 1938. The banner reads, “Those of the same blood belong in the same Reich!” (April 1938) —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Library of Congress

Introduction

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.

General

  • 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.

  • Bazyler, Michael J., Kathryn Lee Boyd, Kristen Nelson, and Rajika Shah. Searching for Justice After the Holocaust: Fulfilling the Terezin Declaration and Immovable Property Restitution. 2019. (KZ193.2 2009 .B39 2019) [Find in a library near you]

    Presents the results of the Holocaust (Shoah) Immovable Property study of the European Shoah Legacy Institute. Reviews the history of legislation for restitution for private, communal and heirless immovable property and the current status of restitution for each of the 47 countries signatory to the Terezin Declaration. Includes introduction, conclusion, lists of relevant laws, examples of court cases, and bibliographic references.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Gold, Dina. Stolen legacy: Nazi theft and the quest for justice at Krausenstrasse 17/18, Berlin. Chicago: American Bar Association. 2016. [Find in a library near you]

    Recounts one family’s struggle to reclaim their large Berlin property. Describes the legal and administrative hurdles the author faced in her successful case and discusses the interactions between different family branches. Forward by Ambassadort Stuar E. Eizenstat. Includes photographs, maps, family tree, glossary, index and discussion questions for book clubs.

  • 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.

  • Labendz, Jacob Ari. Jewish property after 1945: cultures and economies of ownership, loss, recovery, and transfer. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2018. (D810.C8 J48 2018) [Find in a library near you]

    Collects essays regarding Jewish property in different countries including Jewish religious sites, personal property and records of aid groups. Discusses how various communities have different ideas of ownership and property claims and how these concepts have evolved over time. Explores how issues around lost property affect ideas of Jewish belonging. Includes introduction, information about the contributors, index and bibliographic references.

  • Ludi, Regula. Reparations for Nazi Victims in Postwar Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. (D819.E85 L84 2012) [Find in a library near you]

    Chronicles the history of reparations from their beginnings during the last years of World War II. Using a comparative and trans-national perspective describes how, despite large differences in experiences of victimisation, post-war societies developed similar mindsets for addressing victims’ claims. Includes introduction, conclusion, index, and bibliographical and archival references.

  • Wolfe, Stephanie. The Politics of Reparations and Apologies. New York [u.a.]: Springer, 2014. (KZ6785 .W65 2014) [Find in a library near you]

    Evaluates reparations and their connection to social justice movements from a political science viewpoint. Focuses on the redress and reparation movement (RRM), introducing the key concepts, vocabulary and theories for RRM and related social justice movements. Uses case studies from World War II: victims of the Holocaust, the internment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans in the Unites States and Korean “comfort women” imprisoned by the Japanese. Divided into 8 sections, each with a separate bibliography. Includes introduction, appendices, glossary, and index.

  • 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.

  • Fogg, Shannon Lee. Stealing Home: Looting, Restitution, and Reconstructing Jewish Lives in France, 1942-1947. 2017. (DS135.F83 F64 2017) [Find in a library near you]

    Chronicles how French Holocaust survivors returned to France to learn that their homes and possessions were completely looted. Describes how the French government created a restitution service to which thousands of survivors applied. Argues that these early attempts for reparations were central for rebuilding the political and social inclusion of Jews in post-war France. Includes extensive introduction, photographs, map, archival reproductions, index and bibliographic references.

  • 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 and European Insurance Companies

  • Eagleburger, Lawrence S., M. Diane Koken, and Catherine Lillie. Finding claimants and paying them: the creation and workings of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims. [Place of publication not identified]: National Association of Insurance Commissioners in partnership with the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, 2007. (HG8802 .E24 2007) [Find in a library near you]

    Details the creation and internal workings of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims created to assist claiments in their efforts for insurance benefits that multiple European insurance companies denied after the Holocaust. Includes forward, conclusion and statistical data. PDF version available online through the Internet Archive.

  • Kligg, Randy. Holocaust-era Insurance Claims: Compensation and Legislation. Hauppauge, N.Y: Nova Science Publishers, 2012. (KF1150.6 .H65 2012). [Find in a library near you]

    Compiles background information, court rulings, state statutes and testimonies before Congressional committees regarding the issues surrounding Holocaust-era insurance claims. Created by the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress to brief congressmen and their staff. Part of Nova Science Publishers ‘Law and Legislation’ series. Includes illustrations, preface, and index. 

  • 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.

  • Weiss, Charles. Closing the Books: Jewish Insurance Claims from the Holocaust. New York: Enigma Books, 2008. (D 804.7 .E26 W45 2008) [Find in a library near you]

    Discusses issues of Holocaust restitution, focusing on the 1998 $1.25 billion settlement by the Swiss Banks and the establishment of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC). Includes foreword by Abraham Foxman, glossary, several appendices of legal documents on restitution, and an index.

Forced Laborers

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  • Bilsky, Leora. The Holocaust, Corporations and the Law: Unfinished Business. 2017. (KF6075 .B555 2017). [Find in a library near you]

    Describes the class action civil suits by former forced laborers against German corporations in the 1990s. Argues these court cases and their settlement create a framework for holding multinational corporations accountable for their participation in human rights violations in the future. Includes extensive biographical references, introductory chapter and index.

  • 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.

  • Jansen, Michael, and Günter Saathoff. 2009. A mutual responsibility and a moral obligation: the final report on Germany's forced labor compensation programs. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. (HD4875.G3 G46 2009). [Find in a library near you]

    Outlines the history of restitution for forced laborers from the Nazi period to establishment of the Foundation “ Remembrance, Responsibility and Future.” Reports the outcomes of the compensation programs run by the Foundation. Highlights the life stories of some former forced laborers. Includes appendix, statistical charts, prefaces, forward from German president Horst Köhler, illustrations and bibliographical references.

  • Weber, Avraham. The Ghetto Workers Law: social security benefits for work undertaken in Nazi ghettos under German Federal Law. 2016 (KK7642 .W43 2016). [Find in a library near you]

    Summarizes the history and implementation of the "German Pensions for Work in Ghettos" law of 2002, the 2014 “Ghetto pension reform law” and the hurdles faced by survivors trying to claim the benefits owed to them, 90% of whom had been rejected when they first applied. Discusses the judicial, diplomatic, political, and practical challenges with the implementation of the original ghetto pension law. Includes opening and closing remarks and bibliographical references.

Web 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.

  • 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

Subject Files

Ask at the reference desk to see the following subject files for newspaper and periodical articles:

  • “Banks and banking–Switzerland”
  • “Restitution”

Subject Headings

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
  • Jews–Europe–Claims
  • Restitution and indemnification claims

See all Bibliographies