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Robbery and Restitution

Robbery and Restitution: The Conflict over Jewish Property in Europe

Martin Dean
Constantin Goschler
Philipp Ther
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 308
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  • Book Info
    Robbery and Restitution
    Book Description:

    The robbery and restitution of Jewish property are two inextricably linked social processes. It is not possible to understand the lawsuits and international agreements on the restoration of Jewish property of the late 1990s without examining what was robbed and by whom. In this volume distinguished historians first outline the mechanisms and scope of the European-wide program of plunder and then assess the effectiveness and historical implications of post-war restitution efforts. Everywhere the solution of legal and material problems was intertwined with changing national myths about the war and conflicting interpretations of justice. Even those countries that pursued extensive restitution programs using rigorous legal means were unable to compensate or fully comprehend the scale of Jewish loss. Especially in Eastern Europe, it was not until the collapse of communism that the concept of restoring some Jewish property rights even became a viable option. Integrating the abundance of new research on the material effects of the Holocaust and its aftermath, this comparative perspective examines the developments in Germany, Poland, Italy, France, Belgium, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-564-2
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Preface
    (pp. x-xii)
    Martin Dean, Constantin Goschler and Philipp Ther
  5. I. Introduction

    • A History without Boundaries: The Robbery and Restitution of Jewish Property in Europe
      (pp. 3-18)
      Constantin Goschler and Philipp Ther

      The robbery of Jewish property during the Nazi era has attracted dramatically increased interest from the public and from scholars during the past few years. Historical perspectives on the Holocaust and its consequences have changed at the same time. From the rising number of recent historical studies now emerges a much more detailed picture of the persecution of the Jews in Germany and in Nazi-dominated territories during the war.¹ At the same time these works increasingly raise the issue of the role of the European societies from which the Jews were torn as a result of German policy. The process...

  6. II. The Robbery of Jewish Property in Comparative Perspective

    • The Seizure of Jewish Property in Europe: Comparative Aspects of Nazi Methods and Local Responses
      (pp. 21-32)
      Martin Dean

      Two of the main questions with regard to the Nazi seizure of Jewish property are how it was organized and what social processes and responses were involved.¹ In an almost historical mirror image, these are also two key questions with regard to property restitution. This chapter addresses the comparative study of Aryanization, confiscation, and plunder, using the results of current research as a starting point. This overview identifies the main issues confronting historians and also the problems they entail.

      One important aspect is the close relationship between property seizure and the development of the Holocaust. The considerable differences in the...

    • Aryanization and Restitution in Germany
      (pp. 33-52)
      Frank Bajohr

      The concept of Aryanization after 1933 signified more than just the transfer of property from Jewish to so-called Aryan ownership. In its broader sense, it also encompassed the gradual expulsion of the Jews from economic life, a process that usually preceded the transfer of assets and their ownership. ¹ In its entirety, Aryanization constituted one of the largest transformations in property ownership in modern German history. It is true that the great majority of the approximately 100,000 Jews who were self-employed in Germany liquidated their shops or firms, dissolving them either voluntarily or by official order. The consequence was that...

    • The Looting of Jewish Property in Occupied Western Europe: A Comparative Study of Belgium, France, and the Netherlands
      (pp. 53-67)
      Jean-Marc Dreyfus

      The study of the looting and expropriation of Jewish property by the Germans during the Holocaust has witnessed a remarkable series of developments since 1996, particularly with the creation of numerous official commissions in European countries, Israel, and the United States, established not only by governments but also by a number of large industrial and financial companies. Since these studies developed within a national context, they only rarely included efforts at international comparison. The Holocaust was nonetheless a Europe-wide phenomenon, which affected the entire continent and had consequences for every segment of society. The renewed interest in the question of...

    • The Robbery of Jewish Property in Eastern Europe under German Occupation, 1939-1942
      (pp. 68-80)
      Dieter Pohl

      The plundering of Jewish property pales by comparison with the mass murder of the Jews. This is especially true with regard to the Jews of Eastern Europe, who made up the majority of victims of the Holocaust. This crime against humanity cost the lives of about 4.5 million people, including some 1.5 million children, in those Eastern European countries occupied by the Germans by 1942. Horror at these murders may be one of the reasons why historians have been hesitant to investigate the preceding robbery, which also continued during and after the murder campaigns. It is only in recent years...

    • The Robbery of Jewish Property in Eastern European States Allied with Nazi Germany
      (pp. 81-96)
      Tatjana Tönsmeyer

      Jewish minorities lived in all the countries of Central and Southeastern Europe on the eve of the Second World War. They comprised part of the middle classes in these mostly agrarian societies and were destined to become the victims of the Holocaust, most of them being deported to German death camps, but some murdered close to their own homes. Those who survived and returned after the war soon came to realize that there was almost no chance of recovering their stolen property; that which had been “Aryanized” at the beginning of the 1940s was then “socialized” less than ten years...

  7. III. The Restitution of Jewish Property in Comparative Perspective

    • West Germany and the Restitution of Jewish Property in Europe
      (pp. 99-112)
      Jürgen Lillteicher

      In the late 1950s, a District Court in Berlin had to deal with a somewhat remarkable case of restitution. On behalf of the heirs of the Jewish-Hungarian sugar magnate Ferencz Hatvany, Professor Dr. Hans Deutsch, a successful Hungarian-born lawyer specializing in restitution cases, sued the German government for the return of Hatvany’s art collection. According to the magnate’s heirs, SS troops had stolen the collection, comprising some 200 valuable paintings, from his Budapest villa during the German occupation of the city, and had later transported it to Berlin.

      The restitution laws of the Allied powers as well as those of...

    • Jewish Property and the Politics of Restitution in Germany after 1945
      (pp. 113-133)
      Constantin Goschler

      When in the 1990s new claims for the restitution of Jewish property arose, they were accompanied by disputes over whether earlier attempts at restitution had been adequate or not. Sometimes these disputes were fueled by a lack of knowledge that earlier efforts at restitution had taken place at all. Behind this controversy lie some key shifts in perspective. On the one hand, over the last fifty years the standard of what is considered to be fair restitution has changed dramatically. On the other hand, over the course of time, Jewish property has also changed both its quality and its meaning...

    • Two Approaches to Compensation in France: Restitution and Reparation
      (pp. 134-154)
      Claire Andrieu

      The history of the restitution of Jewish property stolen during World War II is both a part of the history of state policy and also of the history of how the past is represented.¹ In France there were two successive phases of compensation policy: one of restitution, which was introduced on liberation, and one of reparation, which began in 1997. The first phase reflected the spirit of the postwar era and the second, the ending of the Cold War. In the postwar era, the state was accorded a decisive role within the democracy and the recent war was considered a...

    • The Expropriation of Jewish Property and Restitution in Belgium
      (pp. 155-170)
      Rudi van Doorslaer

      In view of the worldwide interest in the expropriation of Jewish property, it is remarkable that on an international level, Belgium, unlike its neighbors France and the Netherlands, has not been the focus of a great deal of attention. France was dealt severe criticism by the United States for its handling of various class-action lawsuits, moving the historians of the Mission Mattéoli to defend France’s democratic honor. In the Netherlands, where public opinion is very receptive towards Jewish issues, a record number of commissions was set up to process the relevant material. Belgium, by contrast, was the last Western European...

    • Indifference and Forgetting: Italy and its Jewish Community, 1938–1970
      (pp. 171-181)
      Ilaria Pavan

      At the end of the Second World War, Italy’s Jewish community found itself facing a dual moral and financial burden. Over the previous seven years, it had lost 40 percent of its members, leaving a mere twenty-eight thousand in 1945.¹ To add insult to injury, despite clear evidence of the trauma suffered by Italian Jews, the topic of racial persecution under Fascism was completely overlooked—whether intentionally or otherwise—by Italian historians for many years. This erasure of Fascist antisemitism was largely the result of a widely shared desire to depict the racial persecution, like the regime that had generated...

    • “Why Switzerland?” Remarks on a Neutral’s Role in the Nazi Program of Robbery and Allied Postwar Restitution Policy
      (pp. 182-210)
      Regula Ludi

      In article 8 of the agreement signed at the Paris Reparation Conference in January 1946, a provision was introduced earmarking a share of reparations for stateless and so-called nonrepatriable victims of Nazi action, “in recognition of the fact that large numbers of persons have suffered heavily at the hands of the Nazis and now stand in dire need of aid to promote their rehabilitation, but will be unable to claim the assistance of any Government receiving reparations from Germany.” It provided for funds to be raised from three different sources: non-monetary gold found in Germany, German assets in neutral countries,...

    • The Hungarian Gold Train: Fantasies of Wealth and the Madness of Genocide
      (pp. 211-222)
      Ronald W. Zweig

      The relationship between the Third Reich and Hungary was always ambivalent. The revisionist goals of Hungarian foreign policy after the Trianon Treaty of 1920, which Hungary perceived as a humiliation of its sovereignty just as Germany understood Versailles, led to an alliance with Nazi Germany and Italy, two countries that supported Hungarian interests. Hungarian foreign policy was successful, for in the First and Second Vienna Awards of 1938 and 1940 Hungary got back some of the territories it had claimed since Trianon. In return the Hungarians took part in the occupation of Yugoslavia by the German Wehrmacht and declared war...

    • Reluctant Restitution: The Restitution of Jewish Property in the Bohemian Lands after the Second World War
      (pp. 223-239)
      Eduard Kubů and Jan Kuklík Jr.

      The problems surrounding the restitution of Jewish property in Czechoslovakia after 1945 are inextricably linked with the complex political, social, and economic developments of the postwar period. The years immediately after the war were shaped by the transition from a limited democracy to a communist-installed authoritarian regime that brought fundamental changes to the system of property ownership and the principles of property valuation. Before proceeding, we must first define the terms of reference of our enquiry. When addressing this issue, which neither the legal nor the historical literature has examined in any detail, we must largely leave Slovakia aside, despite...

    • The Polish Debate on the Holocaust and the Restitution of Property
      (pp. 240-256)
      Dariusz Stola

      The question of the restitution of the property of victims of the Holocaust in Poland undoubtedly deserves special attention. Any consideration of the genocide of the European Jews committed by the Third Reich must take into account the fact that the Jewish population of Poland was the largest in Europe—over 3 million people—that the proportion of Jews among Poland’s total population—about 10 percent—was also higher than in any other country on the continent, and that their survival rate was very low indeed: fewer than 10 percent of Polish Jews lived to see the end of the...

  8. IV. Concluding Remarks

    • Reflections on the Restitution and Compensation of Holocaust Theft: Past, Present, and Future
      (pp. 259-268)
      Gerald D. Feldman

      In dealing with the intractable and painful subject of this volume, one encounters the problem that the theft to be inventoried is as numbing in its dimensions, albeit not as horrifying, as the murder that accompanied it, and that the tasks ofWiedergutmachung(“making good again”) seem more and more complex and even insurmountable the more one learns and the more time passes. There appears to be an increasingly inverse relationship between the outcomes of historical research and the capacity to take fair and effective action to right historical wrongs. There is a struggle between those who call for legal...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 269-272)
  10. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 273-286)
  11. Index
    (pp. 287-296)