Holocaust Victims and Heirs Seek Restitution for Stolen Property in U.S. Courts
Holocaust victims and their heirs asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 7 whether U.S. courts can give restitution for theft occurring abroad prior to and during World War II. The two cases, which pit survivors and their descendants against the governments of Hungary and Germany, concern artwork and other property stolen by the Nazis.
Prior to adopting the FSIA in 1976, Congress worked with foreign policy experts and international lawyers for three years. Codifying the FSIA establishes clear protocols for when plaintiffs can bring suit against foreign states in U.S. courts and demonstrates a renunciation of judicial decision-making on a case-by-case basis, said David Jacobson, a Pittsburgh-based attorney who joined Traldi in authoring the briefs.
Jacobson, who prior to joining Blank Rome’s Pittsburgh office, worked at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and AJC Berlin, agreed.
“There are still wrongs that have yet to be rectified,” Jacobson said. “Although Germany and other countries have done a lot to promote restitution since World War II, there are still areas that need to be addressed.”
Nonetheless, Congress made clear, through its drafting of the FSIA, that certain exceptions to foreign immunity exist. Because Hungary and Germany’s actions fall within those exceptions, and, given the United States’ continued commitment since Nuremberg to rectifying Holocaust-era ills, the court should permit the plaintiffs’ claims to seek restitution in U.S. courts, said Jacobson.
“The events transpired long ago, but these are still significant wrongs,” he said. “If the Supreme Court closes its doors now, there may be no way for these people to seek recovery.”
“Holocaust Victims and Heirs Seek Restitution for Stolen Property in U.S. Courts,” was published in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle on December 14, 2020.