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True Justice Means More Than Restitution

In response to Rabbi Stern’s post, it is impossible to think about righting the wrongs of the Holocaust because the cruelty, barbarism, and evil on such an unimaginable scale preclude any talk of justice. The work of the Claims Conference should be recognized as an attempt to assist aging survivors in need and not as compensation in any shape or form for the indescribable suffering they experienced as their families and communities were systematically destroyed.

We were privileged to have a noted Holocaust survivor, Dave Gewirtzman, speak to our congregation recently, and the moral clarity of his message–that we must never forget so that we may honor the memories of those who perished and so that we commit ourselves to stand against injustice anywhere–was a clarion call as we look ahead to Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.


If there is a measure of restitution to be given to the survivors of the worst atrocity in human history, it comes not in the form of money–although, as I said, this has a role as well in easing their final years–but in using their experiences and examples as a prod to ensure that we stand united as a community in the face of those who seek to oppress and destroy innocent men, women, and children–in Rwanda, in Sri Lanka, in Darfur–and declare: “Never Again.”

Read the Full Debate: Is the Search for Restitution OK?

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Liz Berney, Esq.

posted April 13, 2007 at 5:27 pm

Pursuing Holocaust restitition is more than okay. It is right and just. Of course no amount of money can bring back the lives of the 6 million men, women and children killed by the Nazis – or the future generations lost to the Jewish people. However, first, let’s not forget that many survivors had their lives and health destroyed by the Nazis. Many of these individuals are impoverished and in ill health, and can use all the restitition help that can be obtained for them. Second, let’s not forget that in addition to killing 6 million Jewish people, the Nazis stole everything from them (and from the refugees who escaped) – including their homes, their businesses, their bank accounts, every stick of furniture, and every piece of jewelry and clothing. While working on the Holocaust assets cases, I saw the “Declarations of Assets” which the Nazis required Jews to complete before killing them. This was a 16 page form on which Jews had to list every single tangible and intangible item they owned – down to the contents of every single draw in the house – to make sure that the Nazis could find and take it all. The monetary value of this adds up to many more billions than have ever been restituted, and it is only right to seek the return of what was stolen. – Elizabeth Berney, Esq.

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