Holocaust compensation in Perspective: Essays by George Dubnow

1. “The Good Germans”

    2. “The Deadbeat Tenants”

           3. “Decent Compensation Now”

       4. “Eye-Opener Case Study”

             5. “Compensation Technicalities”

                 6. “Frankenstein Finkelstein’s Folly”

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Payments to Israel  

Updated: July, 2005




Doting on good news we note with pleasure that those bad, very bad, Germans of Hitler's Third Reich were ground to dust in World War II, and since then good Germans people Germany. The not so good news is that the question still rightly lingers: Are they really that good, or are they just the same good old Germans? 

If anything, one thing that strikes you is that decency is not German politicians’ strong suit (click here for more). For instance, they like to express in public great sorrow at the fate of the Jews during the Third Reich. At the same time they will tell you that you cannot expect most people to be heroes. What they are saying by implication is that the Third Reich wouldn't have happened if only Germans had been possessed of unusual courage. Germans, we are expected to believe, were guilty of nothing more than an all too human lack of courage; or at worst Germans were just disinterested "spectators", supposedly at an arena in which Hitler, Goebbels, Göring and a few other Nazi greats were misbehaving in relative isolation. The truth of course is different; Hitler's policies and war aims enjoyed acceptance, to a lesser or greater degree, by the vast majority of Germans. As for lack of courage, Germans didn't lack courage when it came to fighting for their psychopathic "Führer". They fought with perverted valor and they didn't stop fighting until the Allies occupied practically every square meter of Germany. The obvious fact is, that if the majority of Germans had been disgusted with Hitler as they should have been, no one would have needed any courage to resist his regime. Even more so because the wartime Wehrmacht was almost entirely a conscript army recruited from all walks of life of German society; in other words the people had the guns and thus the means to remove Hitler from power had enough of them wanted to. No, the problem wasn't cowardice but rather twisted-mindedness. The broader implication of the said position is that Jews, like everybody else, not being heroes, are in essence no better than Germans. This of course is an insult. Everybody was better than the Germans. The trouble with the Nazis wasn't so much that they were Nazis but that they were Germans. Take the Italian fascists. As vile as they were they didn't even come close to being Nazis. Their leader Mussolini, who unlike Hitler ended-up being killed by his own people, was a saint compared to Hitler, and Italians’ enthusiasm for Hitler's war was conspicuous by its absence. As for the Spanish fascist leader Francisco Franco, he was for all his despotism an angel by comparison. He didn't join Hitler's war and he even let fleeing Jews take refuge in Spain.

With typical self-pity, German politicians complain that Germans are being constantly taken advantage of because of their bad conscience stemming from their past. Jews seeking indemnification for their persecution under the Nazis, as widely reported in the media, are of course the prime example that comes to mind. Thus insinuating that the noble-minded Germans are the victims of Jewish greed: A favorite Nazi theme. To be sure we are told, Germany has nothing against what is pointedly referred to as "justifiable" claims: what is at issue, one is left to deduce, are all those "unjustifiable" ones. It does not seem to occur to anybody in Germany that the crimes perpetrated during the Third Reich were so outrageous and of such enormous proportions that no amount of compensation can be exaggerated; indeed that there isn’t the slightest chance that too much, by any acceptable standard, will ever be paid by way of what the Germans call "Amends".

Germany has been indemnifying Jews for over 50 years now, isn’t it enough? A good question, so let's see:

Not so long ago, being caught up with by police after a high-speed highway chase, Rodney King, a petty criminal and a bear of a man, was roughed up by angered Los Angeles policemen. Even though no serious injury was caused, the city of Los Angeles was ordered to pay a total of 8 million dollars in damages for the presumably racially inspired unruly behavior of its officers.

Aber... aber.. your good German will not fail to say: The city of Los Angeles! That home of make believe Hollywood! This maverick  place in the maverick State of California cannot seriously serve as an example. O.K. my good Teutonic friend. Remember Lockerbie, Scotland?: A bomb placed aboard by Libyan agents blew up a Pan Am Airliner over Lockerbie causing 270 deaths.  In August 2003 Libya finally admitted blame and transferred the amount of $ 2.7 billion to a Swiss escrow account. The money to be paid out at $ 10 million a victim to the bereaved families as compensation. Well, the facts speak for themselves. Why on Earth should anyone expect less of Germany?

Now not less than 8 million European Jews, of whom 6 million were murdered, were the object of barbaric persecution by the Germans during the Third Reich. By the standard set by the Rodney King case, and taking into account the buying power of the Dollar, at 1 million dollars a victim, damages due from Germany, payable at the end of the war in 1945, would have amounted to 8 trillion dollars. At a reasonable 6% interest, Germany should have been paying in damages, without reducing its debt one cent in the process, 480 billion dollars a year. Instead, it made payments of no more than paltry 47 billion dollars (@ 1$=2.30DM) of which only 85% went to Jewish claimants, that's a ridiculous total of no more than 6000 dollars a victim, stretched over 54 years. About $ 8 a month per victim. So, having paid practically nothing so far, what Germany owes now in damages are still the original 8 trillion dollars compounded at 6% interest over 54 years, a total of 186 trillion dollars; and that's more than Germany is worth at present (Year 2000).

The above sum gives us an idea, in monetary terms for a change, of the enormity of the crimes against Jews committed by Germany. If it started paying now just the interest on the above amount it would have to pay in compensation to Jews alone 11 trillion dollars yearly –which is five times its annual gross domestic product. Obviously, Germany will never be able to pay anything that even remotely approaches what it ought to for the crimes committed by the Third Reich. But, it certainly can be expected to pay no less than 1% of its GDP in perpetuity. That would be at present about 45 billion German marks or 20 billion dollars a year.

Germany, however, spends currently— in line with what it has been spending over the years—only about 2 billion German marks a year for its entire "Amends" effort which it expects to terminate in about 20 years. Obviously German opinion is that it is quite appropriate to profit from the fact that most of the victims of persecution were killed in concentration camps or have otherwise died in the meantime, thus reducing the number of people claiming compensation; the thinking, it seems sometimes, must be "if only Hitler had killed every single Jew, than there wouldn't have been any compensation to pay". The so-called “Amends” have in fact degenerated into nothing but a shameless public relations exercise masquerading as an expression of contrition: Its real purpose amounting in effect to making a fool of the victims and of world public opinion.

This is the background against which German leaders have the nerve to create the impression—warping German public opinion in the process—that the persecuted in general and Jews in particular are taking advantage of Germans' bad conscience, when they demand what supposedly is unreasonable compensation.

Reeducation is urgently called for

Nonetheless, German culture, to which ironically Jews made no mean contribution, is one of the world's great cultures. Hence, Germans must posses some positive attributes worth salvaging. To ignore their faults, however, is a disservice to everyone concerned. It's imperative that we hold up to Germans a mirror in which they can see themselves as they really are and urge them to better themselves. Alas, in pursuing the task of making Germans aware of their shortcomings, the Diaspora mentality, which leads Jews habitually to thank God for the rain whenever the Gentiles spit on them, isn't helpful.

Not surprisingly young Germans overwhelmingly say: we are not guilty of anything, and we had nothing to do with the Hitler era, why should we be paying compensation for its victims? This question is at best naive. It must be borne in mind that the Germans of the Third Reich were also the ones who rebuilt Germany after the war. This reconstruction was facilitated by vast amounts of money made available by the U.S.A., by the admission of Germany to the community of western democracies and by the guidance it received from the conquering Allies in putting its political house in order. With that more than generous help, West Germans, yesterday's Hitler enthusiasts and fellow travelers, were able to go to work and make Germany one of the richest countries in the world; thus passing on to the younger generations considerable riches as well as an enviable piece of territory and an abundance of cultural wealth. This inheritance, however, is encumbered with the heavy debt incurred by the generations of the Third Reich because of the crimes they were involved in. Now in no civilized society can the heirs to an estate disregard its liabilities if they wish to keep the assets. Young Germans should not be held accountable for the sins of their parents and grandparents. They needn't apologize, and they should not be punished for outrages they didn't commit. However, paying one's debts isn't punishment, it is something honest people do as a matter of course. Since young Germans show no inclination to part with the considerable assets they have inherited, they are obligated to pay the debts that go with them. As long as they don't have the decency to do so, they are tantamount to accomplices after the fact of the Nazis, all their talk of regret and their professions of friendship amounting to sheer hypocrisy. 

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 The subject of this essay is Holocaust compensation. It has become fashionable lately to talk about Holocaust compensation when what is actually meant is the compensation of World War II forced laborers. Using the term Holocaust in this context is inappropriate. Nor is Holocaust compensation “reparations”. Reparations being defined by Merriam-Webster as: Compensation in money or materials payable by a defeated nation for damages to or expenditures sustained by another nation as a result of hostilities with the defeated nation.

 Recruiting and using forced labor is part of a belligerent’s war effort. The claims for compensation arising out of forced labor currently pressed by individuals against German wartime employers derive their legitimacy from the concepts of unjust enrichment as well as liability for war crimes. Jewish claimants who qualify for Holocaust compensation often also qualify for forced labor compensation; these claims are not mutually exclusive claims.

 As to war, Carl von Clausewitz, the celebrated authority on war, observed a good hundred and fifty years ago: “War is a political instrument, a continuation of political relations, a carrying out of the same by other means.” In other words in the tradition of even the civilized world, such as it is, war is an intrinsically acceptable mode of behavior justified under certain circumstances. What these circumstances may be and what is acceptable in the conduct of war is, in practice, decided mainly by the war parties themselves according to their own lights. Thus, not surprisingly the history of our civilization is largely the story of myriad wars and the attendant war crimes.

 The Holocaust is a different matter altogether: business as usual is out of the question. The term Holocaust properly used denotes the Genocide perpetrated by Germany upon the Jews: “Die Endlösung” (meaning the final solution of the Jewish question). Even if Germany perpetrated this Genocide under the cover of World War II, genocide is neither war nor a war crime and it isn’t just mass murder. In its narrowest sense as is meant by “The Holocaust” it’s racism taking the extreme course of premeditated, systematic, and cold-blooded, extermination of a whole people that had no history of hostility towards the perpetrator state or any of its citizens nor the means or intention of endangering or damaging it in any manner This is exactly what Germany in the days of the third Reich indulged in, and almost fully carried out; having succeeded in killing some 75% of the erstwhile Jewish population in the areas under its control: certainly an unprecedented crime, for a highly civilized nation.

 To fully understand the unique perversity of the Holocaust one must consider the fact that far from harming Germany, Jews benefited it greatly, having made considerable contributions to its humanities, sciences, arts, commerce and industry. Germans’ very claim to be considered civilized rests upon their “Christian” ethic and the tradition of studiousness, both of which they got, by way of their clergy, from the Jews.

 Now some object to the idea of a crime being committed by a nation, saying that there is no such thing as collective guilt. This sort of argumentation, is beside the point as it ignores the fact that by all accounts most Third Reich Germans were individually guilty of aiding and abetting the Nazis murderous crusade, with their guilt ranging from enthusiastic participation to unconscionable indifference. Besides, we are not talking here primarily about criminal culpability but about liability for damages; the later doesn’t necessarily presuppose criminality. If you make a turn into a one-way-street the wrong way by mistake and collide with an oncoming car: you may not be guilty of any crime but you can still be made liable for the damage caused. Moreover, that the actions of the representatives of organizations, in their capacity as such, accrue to the benefit or detriment of the organization as a whole is a tenet of our culture. The same applies to nations, which are nothing but organizations representing perceived or real collective interests of their nationals.

Hitler didn’t force himself on the German people. He became their supreme leader legally. And while he was a despot, it can by no means be said that he oppressed the German people. Letting Hitler manage the affairs of the state and doing his bidding made the Holocaust possible. So, even if we are prepared to assume that it all was just an innocent mistake on the part of the entire population, the German nation is still liable for damages because of its mistake.

Incidentally, chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the first post-war German chancellor, who may be considered the father of present-day Germany, was among the first to proclaim the German nation’s responsibility for the Holocaust. Writing privately as early as February 1946 to the Clergyman Custodis he pointed out that the German people knew a good deal of the crimes of the Third Reich, and having done nothing to prevent them must accept as a nation the blame for what happened.

 German politicians are in the habit of impertinently begging on all kinds of occasions the Jewish people for forgiveness for the Holocaust, for which there can be no forgiveness, proclaiming piously that nothing can ever rectify the wrong done. The comfortable conclusion they draw is that asking ad nauseam for forgiveness is a proper “Ersatz” for the real thing; leaving open a “moral” obligation for only token compensation. Well when you cause a traffic accident, you don’t just get out of your car and say how sorry you are and tip the other driver as a token of your regret. If you are a responsible person, you see to it that the damage gets paid in full. That talk by itself is meaningless, as tokenism is unacceptable, is surely something that the German public can be made to understand.

On February 3, 1998 a US fighter plane attached to NATO flying too low over the Italian Alps severed a lift cable. A cabin carrying 21 skiers plummeted to earth and all but one were killed. It was an accident, the result of negligence. No kind of malice was involved. Two years later Italy’s Prime Minister D’alema signed a decree granting the heirs of each of the dead damages of $ 2 million of which the U.S. had to pay 75%. Eight of the dead skiers were Germans. Germans, one should know, are in the habit of saying that Jews like to turn everything into money, notably the Holocaust. Surprisingly none of the families of the killed German skiers refused to be compensated; indeed, they took time out to consider if they shouldn’t ask for more. It seems that Germans, no less than Jews, see nothing wrong in compensating injury with money, by standards much more generous than Germany’s, when they themselves are the aggrieved. One thing is sure: the life of a Jewish person isn’t worth less than that of a German. Now let’s be generous about it, and assess damages due for the Nazi persecution of the Jews, certainly a worse offense than careless flying, at a modest $ 2 million for each of the 8 million persecuted; and let the payment –$ 16 trillion– be due not as of 1945 but as of January 1. 2000, thus ignoring the vast amount of accrued interest. At 6% interest on this sum, $ 1 trillion a year would be payable henceforth in compensation!

Since the1991 reunification of Germany, the German government saw no problem in transferring resources to the tune of something like DM 170 billion a year from the west to the erstwhile communist east. On the other hand, when it came to paying Holocaust compensation, it took Germany 55 years to pay a comparable total as expressed in to- day’s money.

 While there is no precedent for the Holocaust there is a precedent for Germany paying-up. After World War I, besides having to pay reparations in cash, Germany lost 70,000 sq. km of its territory. After the Second World War, on the basis of the four powers Potsdam Agreement, the Soviet Union took away from Germany, as compensation for war crimes, among other things 120.000 sq. km of its territory, displacing millions of Germans. True, the war crimes perpetrated against the Soviet people were immense. The Holocaust however was certainly no lesser crime and it certainly deserves no lesser compensation. So, as of 1945, applying the norms set by the Potsdam Agreement, those Jews that were persecuted by Germany and their heirs have a claim to at least 120.000 sq. km, or a third of what is now Germany. Since the people of the Third Reich couldn’t properly pass on to their heirs land they have forfeited Germans are today living on territory that is partially not theirs. Should they be thrown out? Not necessarily. But they should be required to pay rent as compensation to the Jews! At a modest rent of 1 DM a sq. m. a year the amount of compensation thus due amounts to DM 120 billion a year. So far, the German nation hasn’t come even remotely close to paying its rent. It’s high time Germans face up to this fact.

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As has been shown in the preceding Essays the post-Third Reich generations of Germans though not responsible for the events of that Regime, their German state is nevertheless fully liable for the compensation due to its victims. Germans however, seem to be aware neither of this fact nor that the compensation rendered so far by Germany doesn’t amount to more than a mere gesture.

In 1945, at the end of World War II, Germany lay in ruins. Its cities were heaps of rubble and its industry and infrastructure were severely damaged; the population, swelled by hordes of displaced persons and demobilized soldiers, was in dire straits: millions of people were in need of help. In those first postwar years, Germany couldn’t do much by way of compensation, but one must fairly say, it probably did for the survivors of the Holocaust all it could do at that time. To expect truly adequate compensation in those days would have been unrealistic. Germany had to be given a breathing space so it can get on its feet again. Germany did get its breathing space, and than some. This, and the considerable assistance Germany got, mainly from the U.S., didn’t fail to have their salutary effect, so that the thin years didn’t last forever: Ten years after the war Germany had already become an economic powerhouse, and from then on it has never looked back. However, the Holocaust compensation it offers–which, except for cost of living adjustments hasn’t changed in substance since its inception–would make you think Germany never managed to get out of the poorhouse. To be sure, for those in need, receiving some compensation was and is much better than getting nothing, and in that sense the compensation paid did and is doing quite a bit of good. This may be seen as a mitigating circumstance, but it does not alter the fact that the persecuted and their heirs are being shortchanged on a grand scale, of all things to the benefit of the offspring of those responsible for the havoc visited upon Europe’s Jewry.

 That, those who perished in the death camps were gravely wronged, as were those who survived the camps after undergoing untold suffering is obvious. However, Auschwitz stood only at the end of an infamous campaign of persecution that the Nazis initiated right after Hitler’s ascendancy to power in 1933. Especially the outspoken got a taste of Nazi wrath early on. Of those that wound up in concentration camps, only those possessed of unusual mental and physical toughness survived, provided they were extremely lucky to boot. The fragile among the persecuted never had a chance. That is unless they managed to avoid the camps. For the fragile however, the humiliation of being treated as pariahs, being uprooted and cast adrift of their accustomed social and cultural moorings compounded by difficulties in adapting to conditions in the foreign lands they took refuge in, often experiencing sudden poverty, was physically and mentally so injurious that many never managed to regain a measure of the material and constitutional well being they enjoyed before their persecution by the Nazis. True, there are many who, thanks to a tough constitution, managed to shake off the trauma of persecution and starting from scratch after the war managed to become successful or even outstandingly successful in their endeavors. However, for the majority of the victims of Nazi persecution (the silent majority), be they former death camp inmates or not, the damage caused was considerable.

Consider for example the case of successful professionals whose capacity to work was diminished or disappeared altogether because of their traumatic experiences, or that of those children of the persecuted that grew up in dysfunctional homes of psychologically damaged parents’ and acquired their mental problems. Thus, gifted individuals, be they first or second-generation persecution victims, often ended up as sorry underachievers because of the Third Reich. Cases like this abound. The difference between a successful professional career and a lowly one or none at all, as is obvious, amounts over a lifetime to millions of dollars in material damage alone.

 Or, take the case of the children of Jews who left their real estate and other property behind as they fled the Nazis. As is often the case, the offspring’s efforts to have the properties returned came to nothing. Not the least because in many cases the offspring not being familiar with the exact circumstances of the properties’ disposal are in no position to plead their case effectively or even at all. (for a sample case click here). And if they happen to be not particularly gifted, or handicapped as a direct or indirect result of persecution, they wind up living in rather modest circumstances: instead of enjoying the opulence that would have been theirs, had they been able to inherit the ancestral properties. On the other hand, the offspring of sundry murderers, for example of an SS officer, similarly not much endowed by way of natural ability, are much better off. The offspring of Nazis and their accomplices didn’t have to surmount any hurdles in order to inherit their forefathers’ property after the war, and unlike their Jewish counterparts who lost out, are now leading a life of luxury thanks to the wealth they inherited from their criminal parents or grandparents.

 Be it an impaired career or loss of property, we are talking not about an abstract damage caused to an abstract entity but about actual damage caused to thousands upon thousands of real individuals.

The facts as described above are recognized to some extent by German “Amends” (literally: “making things right again”) laws, which are intended to redress the wrongs of Nazi racial and political persecution. Restitution laws and the Federal Indemnification Law constitute Germany’s main “Amends” legislation.

 Restitution pertains to the act of returning a specific piece of property to its identifiable erstwhile owner. It is more than obvious that for Jews to own property in Hitler’s Third Reich was out of the question: one way or another they were forced sooner or later by decree or the prevailing circumstances, which were such that they in themselves constituted duress, to part company with it. Hence, the obligation to restitute, which derives from the common legal precepts of illegal seizure and the invalidity of contracts brought about by duress.

 Indemnification legislation is based on the universal rule that damages are due for wrongfully caused injury. Among the injuries covered by the Federal Indemnification Law are: death, physical or mental disability, incarceration and vocational disadvantages. The beneficiaries of these laws are mostly, but not solely, persecuted Jewish persons. Generally one can say about these laws: that their coverage is too limited, i.e. not all those who should have been covered are covered; they are poorly formulated, leaving the door open to willfulness in their implementation; in the case of compensation, the compensation they provide is niggardly.

 To get redress under the “Amends” claimants must run the gauntlet of bureaucracy, experts, and courts, which, with due respect to many good intentioned individuals, are often less than forthcoming, or incompetent, or both. On the other hand, mediocre lawyers, or organizations represented by such, represent the claimants in most cases. As anybody who knows anything about legal systems can tell you, being right does by no means guarantee winning one’s case in court. Miscarriage of justice is quite a common occurrence everywhere, and even more so for those pursuing claims under Germany’s “Amends” laws. The fact that getting redress depends on the vagaries of the legal process is an outrage in itself. In view of the origins of its liability, and the fact that there is not the slightest likelihood of it ever overpaying, Germany’s preoccupation with not being taken advantage of by the occasional bogus claimant is unseemly; it must fully assume the risk of paying unjustifiable claims: it can be expected to pay on even the most remotely plausible claims so as to make sure that not even one deserving claimant goes empty-handed. The more so because for every bogus claimant there are about ten bona fide ones who haven’t come forward to press their claims; some out of disdain, others because they missed a deadline for not being aware of their rights, and still others who in cases of restitution couldn’t locate their assets or being heirs didn’t possess enough information to be able to specify the assets. And all this is to say nothing of the murdered millions with no kin left to pursue any claims, and the fact that the German state has been vastly enriched by Jewish real estate that was never restituted.

Over the years, Germany has entered into all kinds of “Amends” agreements with several governments and Jewish organizations. These agreements led to corresponding legislation. Germany’s position is that by sticking to the agreements it has discharged its duty to redress the wrongs perpetrated upon the persecuted. Deep in their hearts even German politician probably know that that kind of sophistry doesn’t wash. The bureaucrats and functionaries who negotiated these agreements with the Germans, besides having their own agendas, were also under pressure to get results in a hurry so as to get some benefits for the persecuted who needed them urgently; a circumstance that Germany didn’t hesitate to take advantage of. A recent good example of this is Germany’s agreement to grant death camp survivors living in former Soviet-Bloc countries, who have received nothing for 55 years, a pension of one hundred dollars a month for the duration of just four years. With the bulk of the survivors being in their eighties and needy, Germany to all intents and purposes held a gun to the heads of the negotiators, saying in effect: “you either accept or we negotiate until every one of the intended beneficiaries is dead”. What else could the negotiators do but agree to the ridiculous pittance offered?

 It must be pointed out that no one; a U.S. president, an Israeli prime minister, other politicians and bureaucrats, certainly not German ones, or self appointed representatives of the persecuted can absolve Germany of its obligation to render just compensation for its persecution of the Jews. Justice isn’t something one arrives at by haggling with assorted dealers in expediency. Germany persecuted individuals and first and foremost has obligations to individuals and not to organizations and abstract entities of any kind. As long as it can be shown by any plausible standard that the “Amends” hasn’t begun to match in adequacy the crime perpetrated, Germany isn’t exculpated. It is a matter of quintessential morality, or if you like, of self-evident natural law.

The free riders

Shouldn’t we take pity on Germany? Stop being Shylocks insisting on a pound of its flesh? Is it fair to expect it to do more by way of amends than what it has done so far when considering its ability to pay? These questions need to be addressed. In March of this first year of the twenty-first century, the renowned Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz visited Berlin. In a lecture there, he told his rapt audience, among other things, that on his first visit to Berlin in the Sixties he couldn’t comprehend what he saw: it seemed by all appearances that Germany has won the war. He’s not the only one with that impression. A 1959 movie comedy starring Peter Sellers “The Mouse That Roared”, with its theme that losing a war to the U.S. is about the best thing that can happen to a country, alluded to Germany. Ironically, the defeat of those who made the Third Reich possible had indeed a very happy ending for them –courtesy of the good fairy U.S.A. About 20% of Germans were mildly “punished” for their war and Holocaust responsibility by being forced to spend 40 years as residents of the drab Soviet-block. Not so the other 80% of Germans living in the west: Immediately after the war, they received Care packets from the west to tide them over the acute shortages of the time. They were kept afloat for the duration in Soviet-blockaded Berlin by the American and British “Berlin-airlift” that supplied a city of about two million inhabitants solely by air; a heroic operation costly in terms of money and the lives of 75 crewman. Soon they received Marshall-Plan capital infusions worth billions to help them rebuild their country in a hurry. U.S. soldiers and armaments protected them from the Soviets. They didn’t have to fight in Korea or in Viet Nam. They didn’t go to Beirut. Nor did they fight in Iraq to secure the oil lifeline that they depend on more than the U.S. In Somalia, they spent their time digging for water while Americans were getting themselves killed. In Kosovo, they manned radar planes at a safe distance from enemy fire. And while the U.S. is paying a price for speaking out and acting against international terrorism, they keep a low profile, cynically playing Dr. Jekyll while letting the U.S. appear as Mr. Hyde. And while Jewish parents in Israel, many of them Holocaust survivors, are spending sleepless nights as their sons are putting their lives on the line, fighting to secure for Jews a haven from anti-Semitism, all most Germans have to worry about is what ski-slopes are they going to spend the coming winter-vacation on or on what exotic beach the next summer-vacation.

Ability to pay

Since the demise of the Third Reich Germany has been enjoying not only a free ride but, for several decades now, statistically one of the highest standards of living in the world. Beyond statistics, it’s the considered opinion of many observers that the quality of life for most Germans is among the best anywhere. The social net provided by the state is enviable. Health insurance and care of the elderly and incapacitated beats, by a wide margin, anything the U.S. has got to offer its people; Germans also work fewer hours a week and have about double the amount of vacation, holidays and other paid absence from work. Total net assets of private households are considerable, on average nearly 200,000 Dollars a household. The days when globetrotting Americans wielding cameras were champion tourists are long gone: ordinary Germans are by far and away the champions now, thinking nothing of spending all over the world many billions every year on the amenities of tourism.

 The upshot

That stinginess in compensation isn’t compatible with genuine regret goes without saying. By any standard, life is very good in Germany. There is therefore no reason in the world not to expect Germany to do more by way of its “Amends” than just handing out small change. Germany’s Federal Comptroller Office issues a yearly report in which it highlights wasteful spending by government agencies running into tens of billions of DM. Fabulous amounts of money are also available for non-essential or non-urgent projects mainly pandering to the self-importance of politicians. So, just in case there is no money in the national till, Germany should see to it that it wastes less and spends less on vanity projects. And if some belt-tightening might prove necessary, nobody should have to cry for the German people, since any belt-tightening required is going to be insignificant in the context of German affluence. And Germans are arguably still going to be on the whole better off not only than say the poor people of India but also the not so poor people of the U.S. So, it’s probably not too much to ask, that Germany at long last demonstrates that it considers its obligation to amend a first mortgage, and recognizes that setting aside leftovers for holocaust compensation is morally wrong. Commensurate legislation is already some fifty years late. Thus, speedy implementation is a must.

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Compensation Technicalities

The following lines should be of interest mainly, but not only, to those who are familiar with the intricacies of present Amends legislation, and contain Suggestions intended to illustrate by contrast its inadequacies.

 It should be appreciated at the outset that Germany’s “Amends” such as they are, cover just its own actions. Implying that, if say Swiss banks enriched themselves at the expense of the persecuted, it’s none of Germany’s business. Such an attitude is blatantly dishonest and ought to be recognized, not least by Germans themselves, as deplorable. The root of the evil was Germany. It created, in the years of the Third Reich, the appalling conditions that led to breaches of trust in Switzerland, to pogroms in Eastern Europe, to loss of property all over Europe, and the like. Therefore, the German state is primarily liable for the entire damage thus caused. And, as far as the injured are concerned, Germany is the one obliged to take care of the bill in full. Should Germany consider it appropriate, it can go and chase Switzerland, Poland and whomever and haggle with them to share its burden.

 Now being pragmatic and very user friendly: Germany ought, as an absolute minimum, to earmark no less that 1% of its GDP for its “Amends” effort; or at present about twenty times the 2 Billion DM a year it’s actually spending. For starters, it should pass without delay legislation trebling, as of January 1, 2000, payments of all those already receiving compensation under the Federal Indemnification Law (BEG) or other laws covering the persecuted; the extra payment to be reduced by 1 DM for every 2 DM of net personal income of the beneficiary over 10.000 DM a month from all sources. Entitlements must be for life in all cases and payments and monetary yardsticks must be linked to the cost of living. Entitlements must be irrevocable. For the benefit of recipients who happen to be in financial difficulties, the law should stipulate that creditors of the recipient can’t attach compensation payments be they current or accumulated arrears due; arrears nevertheless may be offered as security to obtain a commensurate cash advance or an equivalent. All payments must be tax-free for all recipients. Upon the death of the beneficiary, his entitlement should pass to his spouse or in the case of unmarried couples the cohabitation-partner and next to the offspring or alternatively to any natural person explicitly designated by the deceased.

 As a second step, a further law should be passed expeditiously augmenting the above as follows: All persons earmarked by Nazi racial criteria for persecution who stayed in the years 1933–1945 even for the shortest time in areas under German control or influence, or who fled their homes to avoid the advancing Germans, regardless of whether they were actually persecuted or not, and regardless of their present domicile, as well as their children, regardless of when and where they were born, shall be guaranteed by the German state the supplementary benefits, and double the after-tax income, of the average vocationally active person in Germany. Later generations, if born before the end of the present century will be guaranteed upon reaching the age of 18 the benefits and an income equal to that of the average vocationally active person in Germany; those still under 18 and orphaned, should be entitled to the guaranteed income of the deceased parent. The personal income of the beneficiary to be the deciding factor; the income of a spouse or other family members should be of no significance. If the supplementary benefits and the income after taxes of the entitled person are less than the guaranteed amount, the German state should take care of the difference. Personal assets worth up to a million DM net of liabilities–this figure to be adjusted for inflation periodically–should be disregarded; an income of 3% annually shall be assumed for net worth in excess of this amount for property not producing any income. There should be no deadline to apply for the benefits.

 As for restitution of property, a law should be immediately passed stipulating the following: All past decisions rejecting restitution under existing German federal and Allied laws shall, upon request of the claimant and payment of a one time fee of DM 1000, be reviewed by the German Federal Court (BGH); all decisions– with opinions shown to contain errors of fact and or poor reasoning, or where the facts as originally established by the courts can be alternatively construed in a way favorable to the claimants–must be presumed, conclusively, to be wrong, and must be reversed. Redress to be provided as set out below.

 A law stipulating the following should replace the above law as soon as possible: All persons who were earmarked by Nazi racial criteria for persecution, who owned identifiable property in areas of Nazi Germany’s control or influence, and had to part with it in the years 1933–1945, be it by sale or forced sale or due to foreclosure or by abandoning it or any other manner; should be entitled to have this property restituted to them, if this hasn’t happened already; prior decisions rejecting restitution to be disregarded. There should be no deadline for applying. The law is to apply also to beneficial owners of property held in another person’s name, if the possibility that such ownership was the case can’t be entirely excluded. The fact that the property has already been restituted to the state in its capacity as a legal heir, or to any other entity on similar considerations should not impinge on the right of the applicant to restitution. On the conclusive presumption that actual restitution of real estate at such a late time is an impossibility–among other reasons due to changes that took place on the property, or because it would be unfair to the present owners, or because it is located outside Germany–75% tax free of the highest market value of the property obtaining since 1945, or were appropriate, that would have been obtaining if no changes to the property had taken place, should be paid by Germany to the claimant in cash plus 8% compound interest from January 1, 2000–in lieu of actual restitution. Beside the original owner, his immediate heirs should be entitled to restitution, with next in succession spouses or cohabitation-partners of such heirs. Next their children, and other legal heirs provided they are natural persons. The law must also provide that an entitled person may cede the claim to restitution to any person.

 The suggestions made above are designed to leave an absolute minimum to the discretion of bureaucrats, experts and courts. In case of litigation, a German state court (LG) and the German federal court (BGH) should have jurisdiction, except were otherwise specified above. At both levels, facts and the interpretation of facts and law should be subject to review. Plausibility and not absolute proof of fact should be required of claimants. Representation by lawyers at all levels shouldn’t be mandatory, and lawyers may represent claimants only on a contingency basis, with total fees not exceeding 5% of the claims’ value. The claimant if he so wishes may also appoint as his representative any person of his choice. Final complete review should be delegated to a U.S. Court of Appeals in N. Y. and or the U.S. Supreme Court–to be arranged by treaty. All costs of litigation except those mentioned above must be covered by the German state. These provisions should apply to all indemnification and restitution laws suggested above. Any decision should be subject to appeal only by the claimants; adverse decisions should never become final. Throughout, “in doubt for the claimant” must apply.

Payments to Israel?

 As already pointed out the victims of Germany’s crimes were real individuals and these individuals and their natural heirs are the ones who have the first inalienable claim to be compensated fully by Germany. Now an “Amends”-legislation as outlined above will still cost Germany certainly less than ½% of its GDP annually, thus leaving room for further considerations; like payments of a billion dollars a year to defray at least in part the costs of Israel’s security—as compensation for damage inflicted on Jewry collectively: Germany took it upon itself to denude Europe of Jews; chasing most of them skywards through the chimney. Therefore, among other things, it should assume fully its responsibility to shoulder the burden, to a very significant extent, of securing an alternative habitat for those Jews for whom the historic trauma of the Holocaust became an indelible determinant of their consciousness and thus a defining element of their Jewishness:  making it impossible for them to feel at home anywhere but in a Jewish state.

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Frankenstein Finkelstein’s Folly

If you are interested in the subject of holocaust compensation you may have come across the name Norman G. Finkelstein. “G” most likely stands for gastritis. Considering his ill temper he must be suffering from a very bad case of the malaise. Finkelstein’s case is aggravated by the fact his gastritis must have affected his brain, making him the monster he is. The man should see a doctor. However, by those positively disposed,  Norman’s ludicrous diatribes will be surely percieved as nothing more than the unsophisticated antics of a loony comedian.

 Finkelstein’s contention that Jewish institutions are in the business of robbing victims of the Holocaust—among them his parents—of some of the compensation meant for them isn’t without merit. His distaste for said institutions on that account is most probably justified; at least to some extent.

 As a matter of general principle, Finkelstein is also quite right to consider it ill-advised for Jewish institutions to go after the Swiss and East-European countries for compensation. He fails however to understand that they should have been going after Germany for all the damage caused anywhere as explained in the essay  “Compensation Technicalities” (click here). Cheated individuals asking for disgorgement of monies embezzled by Swiss banks from specific accounts is of course a different matter.

 But, Norman Finkelstein is a classical case of second generation Holocaust damaged as described in the essay “Decent Compensation Now” (click here).  You just watch this man talk and you know he is sick. He deserves some compassion.  And Holocaust compensation.

 Norman’s madness becomes an awesome spectacle, think of mad scientist movies, when he advances, in all earnest, the sick proposition that Germany is a victim of greed driven Jewish machinations: whatever can be said of Jewish institutions Germany is no victim. As made abundantly clear in the essays “The Good Germans” (click here) and “The Deadbeat Tenants” (click here) Germany has paid in compensation, compared to the magnitude of its crimes next to nothing, and relative to a very considerate assessment of its ability to pay not much more than nothing. The duped being the persecuted and their heirs — including poor Norman.

It seems Norman was advised by his doctors to smoke pot for symptomatic relief. At any rate his essay “The Lessons of Holocaust Compensation”, published on the internet, contains distinctly psychedelic lessons.

 What Norman imparts us in said, if not in style but then in its amazing content rather amusing essay, is in a nutshell the following equation: If Germany has to pay compensation to Jews for their persecution than Israel has to pay compensations to Palestinians for their dispossession.

 May seem logical at first glance, especially to a warped mind. What the wretch doesn’t see is that in the saga of the Israeli – Palestinian strife (click here) the Palestinians are not the “Jews” of the piece, but so to speak the German aggressors—  the Israelis being the victims of their aggression. (The awareness of this reality explains the, to the uninitiated seemingly perplexing, “one-sidedness” of US Mid-East policy.) Like in the case of Germany, defeat and the misery it entails doesn’t in the least change the fact of Arab culpability. The lesson that Norman so outlandishly misses is that the Arab nation at large and Palestinians in particular are the ones who owe compensation and reparations: for forcing wars on Israel; to say nothing of the terror they have been subjecting Jews to for some one hundred years now.

 Putting for a change the above in his pipe and smoking it  may do Norman some good.



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