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 Posted Saturday, December 28, 2002

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In September 1998 Abe Foxman, the head of the anti-Defamation League confessed that the Jews had "bludgeoned" (his word) the Swiss into parting with Gold; now the violence has resumed. . .

It 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. -- Marc Stern, legal affairs director of the American Jewish Congress


April 6, 2001


Survivors' 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 Auschwitz death camp are suing the American government for its failure to bomb the camp.

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 place?"

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 international law.

"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 several multi-billion-dollar 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. government agencies.

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 were bombed.

"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 said.



Anti-Jewish upsurge in Germany as US lawyers demand factories pay £20 billion compensation

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