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How to Accept German Reparations

How to Accept German Reparations

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    How to Accept German Reparations
    Book Description:

    In a landmark process that transformed global reparations after the Holocaust, Germany created the largest sustained redress program in history, amounting to more than $60 billion. When human rights violations are presented primarily in material terms, acknowledging an indemnity claim becomes one way for a victim to be recognized. At the same time, indemnifications provoke a number of difficult questions about how suffering and loss can be measured: How much is an individual life worth? How much or what kind of violence merits compensation? What is "financial pain," and what does it mean to monetize "concentration camp survivor syndrome"?Susan Slyomovics explores this and other compensation programs, both those past and those that might exist in the future, through the lens of anthropological and human rights discourse. How to account for variation in German reparations and French restitution directed solely at Algerian Jewry for Vichy-era losses? Do crimes of colonialism merit reparations? How might reparations models apply to the modern-day conflict in Israel and Palestine? The author points to the examples of her grandmother and mother, Czechoslovakian Jews who survived the Auschwitz, Plaszow, and Markkleeberg camps together but disagreed about applying for the post-World War IIWiedergutmachung("to make good again") reparation programs. Slyomovics maintains that we can use the legacies of German reparations to reconsider approaches to reparations in the future, and the result is an investigation of practical implications, complicated by the difficult legal, ethnographic, and personal questions that reparations inevitably prompt.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0965-5
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Prologue: Reparations and My Family
    (pp. 1-18)

    My father, Josef Slyomovics, has been forced to flee his country twice: first in 1938 when Hitler annexed the Sudetenland and again in 1948 when the Soviet Union occupied Czechoslovakia. In the summer of 1998, while on vacation in the town where he grew up, Karlovy Vary (in Czech; Karlsbad in German), he announced to his astonished family that he intended to stay in the Czech Republic and was not returning to Canada. Vera Hollander Slyomovics, his wife and my mother, refused to remain with him despite their fifty-year absence from a homeland she now dismissively categorizes as “the third...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Financial Pain
    (pp. 19-52)

    My particular family history illuminates justifications for and against reparations through discussions of indemnification, the anthropology of “blood money,” guilt, and responsibility embedded in the ways these approaches both do and do not shed light on my mother’s refusal to accept reparations for Auschwitz, in contrast to my maternal grandmother’s implacable pursuit of reparations from Germany, Hungary, and the Ukraine for over four decades until her death in Israel in 1999 (Figure 2). My research project investigates aspects of histories and legal instruments of international human rights law relevant to remedies and specifically to a historical moment during which my...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Limits of Therapy: Narratives of Reparation and Psychopathology
    (pp. 53-95)

    Reparations touch on aspects of the destruction of the Jews during World War II but fundamentally sidestep the Holocaust. By drawing on readymade, preexisting economic categories about damages present in the tort system, reparations deal only with those who survived, a remnant minority that cannot represent losses to entire families and communities. To succeed, reparations protocols must construct an image of the universal victim, one that necessarily diminishes the individual in favor of aggregate solutions. Human rights commissions and reparations committees attach conditions to reparation funds they disburse. These conditions are both explicit and implicit. Individual witness testimony is a...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Will to Record and the Claim to Suffering: Reparations, Archives, and the International Tracing Service
    (pp. 96-133)

    An archive may be an actual space—a physical depository designated to store the artifacts and documents that record history. Many such archives are housed in architecturally purposeful edifices, as if the materiality of the concrete building underwrites not merely the acts of preserving records but also the claim to constitute data as definitive sources to past events. Archivists are increasingly cognizant of power relations that govern what, when, and how evidential and historical information are present in the archive, to the extent that archive keepers speak of repositories shaped by and producing collective memory and identity formation.¹ Between a...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Canada
    (pp. 134-174)

    To conjure riches and plenty in buildings abundantly stocked with food and goods,Das Kanadawas the name given by Auschwitz-Birkenau inmates to the vast storage warehouses located near the gas chambers. After the latest arrivals were forcibly herded from packed transports onto the infamous concentration camp ramp, everything they brought with them was confiscated for processing to Germany and deposited inKanada. It was an imagined paradise run bykapooverseers, “well nourished themselves, having bacon and tinned foods in supply, chocolate, as well as good clothes and woolens, leather gloves, and their exquisite boots standing beneath their bunks,”...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Children of Survivors: The “Second Generation” in Storytelling, Tourism, and Photography
    (pp. 175-206)

    The Holocaust comes to me not only through my mother’s dreams and anecdotes or because I am the namesake of my murdered paternal grandmother, but through additional family rites—the pursuit of reparation claims, visits to actual cemetery headstones, memorial plaques with no bodies beneath, found and created photographs, and, always, by means of truncated stories whose chronology and horror I imaginatively smooth over even as I reconstruct them. Anthropological conventions about reflexivity relate the ethnographer’s background (that is, positionality) to her research projects, but, in writing about Germany’s Holocaust reparations, I note that emic categories of the postwar Jewish...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Algerian Jews Make the Case for Reparations
    (pp. 207-234)

    Once my mother entered the German reparations program in the year 2000, I began to monitor the website of the German Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility, and the Future (Stiftung Erinnerung, Verantwortung, und Zukunft), the entity charged with new categories of claimants and victims worthy of compensation. Their avowed goals were to indemnify individual survivors of National Socialist injustice committed by the German Reich during the years between 1933 and 1945 based on new parameters.¹ Consequently, Germany continues to add to compensable victims, notably slave and forced laborers, that go beyond the first 1952 German Federal Compensation Law on behalf of European...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Compensation for Settler Colonialism: Aftermaths and “Dark Teleology”
    (pp. 235-270)

    Two fundamental questions are posed by post-World War II German reparations in relation to monetary recompense—how much is an individual life worth, and who counts as human? By effectively broadening legal and economic constructs for human rights remedies in the aftermath of the Holocaust, Germany’s approach to its European Jewish victims became a starting point for scholarly studies of postwar reparative protocols. Since 1952, Germany’sWiedergutmachungattests to the seminal roles that Jewish experiences of Holocaust reparations play in ongoing considerations of reparations worldwide. “The Holocaust,” Hungarian author Imre Kertész affirms “is a value, because through immeasurable sufferings it...

  11. APPENDIX A. My Grandmother’s First Reparations Claim (1956)
    (pp. 271-276)
  12. APPENDIX B. My Grandmother’s Subsequent Reparations Claims (1965–68)
    (pp. 277-280)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 281-324)
    (pp. 325-354)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 355-370)
    (pp. 371-374)