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Holocaust Restitution: Seeking Restitution in the Hungarian Gold Train Case

A proposed settlement agreement was filed on March 11, 2005 in the Hungarian Gold Train case between the United States Government and Hungarian victims of the Holocaust and heirs. A settlement hearing was held on March 17, 2005 with U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Federal District Judge Patricia A. Seitz presiding, who preliminarily approved the Settlement Agreement in a written order dated April 8, 2005.

The Hungarian Gold Train was a train of approximately 24 freight cars that contained personal property which was taken, seized, confiscated or stolen by the Hungarian government from Hungarian Jews. The personal property in issue was taken into custody by the United States Army on or about May 11, 1945, near Werfen, Austria and later moved to Salzburg, Austria.

In 2001, plaintiffs, for themselves and on behalf of all persons who have claimed or at any time could claim any interest in the personal property contained on the Hungarian Gold Train, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida against the United States Government. The case is entitled Rosner, et al. v. United States of America, Docket No. 01-1859-CIV-SEITZ.

This lawsuit claims that the United States violated various laws and regulations, including but not limited to breach of contract, the law of nations, the Constitution, and applicable military regulations, in its handling and disposition of the personal property on board the Hungarian Gold Train. The United States denies that it did anything wrong. The Settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing or an indication that any law was violated.

The Settlement Agreement provides that the United States will pay up to USD $25.5 million into a Settlement Fund. Any Court-approved attorneys’ fees, expenses and awards to Named Plaintiffs will be deducted from the Settlement Fund. USD $500,000 of the Settlement Fund will be used by a recipient institution (e.g., a museum) for use in identifying, acquiring, microfilming, cataloguing and making available an archival collection of documents and artifacts, for scholarly research and educational purposes, as well as for the use and benefit of Class Members, relating to the history of the Hungarian Gold Train and the looting of the Jewish Community of Hungary during World War II.

The balance of the Settlement Fund, which will be approximately USD $21 million, will be used to provide social service programs for the benefit of eligible Jewish Hungarian Nazi victims. These monies will be disbursed worldwide to qualifying social service agencies in accordance with the terms of the distribution plan filed with the Court. To be eligible to benefit from a social service program, you must have been born before May 8, 1945 and lived in the 1944 borders of Hungary sometime between 1939 and 1945, as well as meet qualifying criteria for “need.” The Settlement does not provide for direct payments to Class Members as compensation for property lost on the Hungarian Gold Train.

Notice of the Settlement will be given to Class Members by mail, through newspaper ads, on the internet and through Jewish and survivor organizational networks.

Please check this website for periodic updates regarding the Settlement.

Source: Hungarian Gold Train Settlement