gives the Holocaust movement a
bad name. It is going to be
seen as 'The Jews are really
out there to get all the money
they can from the Holocaust.
Stern, legal affairs director
of the American Jewish
April 6, 2001
Lawsuit Seeks $40 Billion From U.S. for
Not Bombing Auschwitz
IN a bizarre addition
to the Holocaust-related suits now winding
their way through the courts, two
German-Jewish survivors of the
death camp are suing the American
government for its failure to bomb the
The plaintiffs in the class-action
suit, Kurt Julius Goldstein, 87,
and Peter Gingold, 85, are asking
for $40 billion in compensation for
survivors and the descendants of the Jews
killed in Auschwitz in the closing months
of World War II. They claim that a
decision to bomb the camp would have
rescued some 400,000 Hungarian Jews who
were deported there in 1944 and 1945.
The suit was filed with the U.S.
District Court for the District of
Columbia on January 2. Judge Emmet G.
Sullivan issued a summons to the U.S.
attorney general on March 8. The
government has 60 days to respond.
Holocaust scholars here were largely
dismissive of the suit. "This is silly and
ridiculous," said Michael
Berenbaum, co-editor of "The Bombing
of Auschwitz," a comprehensive historical
study published last summer. "How can you
litigate on the conduct of the war? And
why don't they sue the German government
for creating Auschwitz in the first
But the suit's legal architect insisted
it has raised important issues. "This is
not some crazy lawsuit," said Peter
Wolz, a Düsseldorf lawyer who
said it took him three years to build the
suit. "The attitude of the U.S. government
during the war, and especially its
decision not to bomb Auschwitz, need to be
addressed in a legal case."
American legal experts say that the
case will probably be dismissed because of
the "sovereign immunity" statute, which
protects governments from being sued for
their actions &emdash; or inaction, in
this case. Mr. Wolz contends that the
protection should not apply because
genocide-related issues are governed by
"It is a dead-end," said a prominent
legal scholar who spoke on condition of
anonymity. "There is no way a U.S. court
will accept this kind of argument."
In the past
few years, Jewish survivors have filed
numerous lawsuits against Swiss banks,
German companies and other European
entities and governments, leading to
settlements. Recently, however, the
focus has been shifting toward
America's role in the Nazi atrocities
and their aftermath. A lawsuit, since
dropped, was filed against IBM alleging
that its German subsidiary colluded
with the Nazi regime.
The Auschwitz bombing suit, despite its
remote chances of success, is creating a
sense of unease among Jewish
organizations. The $40 billion sought in
compensation is also raising eyebrows. The
Swiss banks, for example, settled for
$1.25 billion and German industry and
government for $5.2 billion.
"It gives the Holocaust movement a bad
name," said Marc Stern, legal
affairs director of the American Jewish
Congress. "It is going to be seen as 'The
Jews are really out there to get all the
money they can from the Holocaust.'"
Elan Steinberg, the executive
director of the World Jewish Congress,
which has been at the forefront of
Holocaust restitution campaign, said, "We
absolutely don't support it."
Mr. Wolz, who is not Jewish, said that
he based his 600-page case on Mr.
Berenbaum's book, on his own findings
among recently declassified archival
materials and on other unclassified
documents, including documents from U.S.
The central claim of the suit draws its
impetus from an executive order signed by
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
on January 22, 1944, calling on the
government to take all measures to rescue
the European Jews.
"Why did the executive order not go
through?" Mr. Wolz asked. He claims the
order was ignored because of the influence
of a group of America's biggest companies,
which continued to do business with Nazi
Germany during the war. He asserts that
the U.S. Air Force, which controlled the
European skies in 1944, could easily have
bombed the railways and the bridges
bringing the Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz
between May and July 1944. But the camp
and its supply lines were taken off the
final list of target proposals and never
"We want to show that because some
people at the top of the U.S. government
and some major American companies had
sympathies and business links with Nazi
Germany, hundred thousands of Jewish lives
were not saved," said Mr. Goldstein, who
lives in Berlin. He said he spent 13
months as a forced laborer in Auschwitz,
at which most of his family perished.
Mr. Berenbaum said, "Even if I
personally believe the Americans should
have bombed Auschwitz, I must say there is
no clear-cut answer."
Mr. Wolz said he was prompted to act by
the recent settlements reached by Jewish
groups with Swiss banks and German
companies. "I was angered that they could
buy their way out for peanuts," he
-- MARC PERELMAN
upsurge in Germany as US lawyers demand
factories pay £20 billion