Introduction and Overview
of Materials in this Study
(November 24, 1999)
It is widely recognized that Nazi Germanys genocidal
campaign to annihilate the Jewish people was one of the most horrible
crimes against humanity in history. Less well known is the fact that
the looting of assets, personal and communal,
of Holocaust victims
constitutes one of the greatest thefts in history. This study
provides a broad overview of the history of and issues surrounding looted
Jewish Holocaust-era assets. The study does not provide an analysis of the Holocaust itself, and discusses the
persecution and killing of Jews primarily as the context for the seizure of
their assets. Consideration of the assets of other classes of Nazi
victims, such as Romani (Gypsies) and homosexuals, is outside the scope of this study.
The study also does not address the issues of forced and slave labor, which
are generally considered to be distinct from asset issues.
The study includes: an overview of two recent major
international conferences on Holocaust-era assets; a review of two major
Holocaust-related U.S. laws; and reviews of the issues connected with
Holocaust victims accounts in Swiss banks and Holocaust victims
insurance claims. The study includes a survey of 31 countries,
covering: the history of the seizure or transfer of Holocaust-era assets,
including looted art; the restitution programs and the legislation dealing
with restitution and its implementation; the work of national
Holocaust-related historical commissions; and the accessibility of
archives. The study addresses the issue of books acquired by the
Library of Congress in Germany after the war, some of which may have
been seized by the Nazis from Holocaust victims. The study also
includes a legislative history of Holocaust-related U.S. legislation since
1995, a comprehensive list of internet web sites of relevant organizations,
and information on how to obtain application forms in order to file
restitution or compensation claims.
The country surveys generally include two components.
International legal analysts from the Law Library of the Library of
Congress wrote one set of components examining the countrys legislation
related to restitution of Holocaust-era assets and the implementation of
that legislation.1 This analysis requires
skills unique to the Law Library and was subject to the Law Librarys own
review process. The other set of components, done mainly by the
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division of CRS, examines other
Holocaust asset topics. The paired components for each country,
though produced independently, are complementary.
1The Law Library provided
contributions for 25 of the 31 countries surveyed. The Law Library at
this time does not have legal specialists covering Albania, Denmark,
Finland, Norway, Sweden, or Turkey
Source: Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress for the U.S. House
International Relations Committee.