Michael Pinto-Duschinsky: Holocaust Reparations: The Back Story

Roundup: Talking About History

Dr. Michael Pinto-Duschinsky is a British political scientist who was appointed in 2011 by Prime Minister David Cameron to the UK Commission on a Bill of Rights. A Holocaust survivor, he was honorary academic advisor to the London-based Claims for Jewish Slave Labor Compensation.

On July 10th, dignitaries from the U.S., German, and Israeli governments attended a curious ceremony at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.  The gathering marked the 60th anniversary of the first agreement by the West German government with the Israeli government and the Jewish "Claims Conference" to grant modest financial compensation for the Holocaust.  Some of the Jews in the room had spent the years since the agreement in seemingly interminable haggling.

The event had the character of a celebration and an exercise in self-congratulation.  Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, a prominent Jewish corporate lawyer who currently holds the offices of Special Advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Holocaust Issues and Special Negotiator for the Jewish Claims Conference, was in top form.  In the 1990s, as a sub-cabinet official in Bill Clinton's administration, Eizenstat headed the talks between class action lawyers for Holocaust survivors and German corporations that were accused of using slave labor during the Second World War.  Bodies such as the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the "Claims Conference," and the German government also participated.  Eizenstat subsequently wrote a self-praising volume about his role and went on to receive the "Great Negotiator" award from his alma mater, Harvard Law School.

At the ceremony, Eizenstat declared that "the Claims Conference vision, we hope, of meaningful compensation and reparations during the last 60 years has truly brought a reconciliation between Germany, the Jewish people, and the state of Israel."...

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