How to Accept German Reparations

How to Accept German Reparations

How to Accept German Reparations

How to Accept German Reparations

Synopsis

In a landmark process that transformed global reparations after the Holocaust, Germany created the largest sustained redress program in history, amounting to more than $60 billion. When human rights violations are presented primarily in material terms, acknowledging an indemnity claim becomes one way for a victim to be recognized. At the same time, indemnifications provoke a number of difficult questions about how suffering and loss can be measured: How much is an individual life worth? How much or what kind of violence merits compensation? What is "financial pain," and what does it mean to monetize "concentration camp survivor syndrome"?

Susan Slyomovics explores this and other compensation programs, both those past and those that might exist in the future, through the lens of anthropological and human rights discourse. How to account for variation in German reparations and French restitution directed solely at Algerian Jewry for Vichy-era losses? Do crimes of colonialism merit reparations? How might reparations models apply to the modern-day conflict in Israel and Palestine? The author points to the examples of her grandmother and mother, Czechoslovakian Jews who survived the Auschwitz, Plaszow, and Markkleeberg camps together but disagreed about applying for the post-World War II Wiedergutmachung ("to make good again") reparation programs. Slyomovics maintains that we can use the legacies of German reparations to reconsider approaches to reparations in the future, and the result is an investigation of practical implications, complicated by the difficult legal, ethnographic, and personal questions that reparations inevitably prompt.

Excerpt

My father, Josef Slyomovics, has been forced to flee his country twice: first in 1938 when Hitler annexed the Sudetenland and again in 1948 when the Soviet Union occupied Czechoslovakia. in the summer of 1998, while on vacation in the town where he grew up, Karlovy Vary (in Czech; Karlsbad in German), he announced to his astonished family that he intended to stay in the Czech Republic and was not returning to Canada. Vera Hollander Slyomovics, his wife and my mother, refused to remain with him despite their fifty-year absence from a homeland she now dismissively categorizes as “the third world.” She was going home to Canada.

My father’s Czech citizenship was restored to him two years later, on September 25, 2000, and, subsequently, so was his passport. Immediately, he presented me with a bound copy of his request, a thick dossier consisting of random documents retrieved from the Czech government archives held safely while their subject was exiled elsewhere for half a century. a series of official certificates chronicles my father’s army career: a FrenchCzech document, dated May 4, 1940, proves his enlistment at the Czechoslovakian exile army recruiting headquarters in Paris; the Czech Brigade injury list, item number 90, attests that Lance Corporal Josef Slyomovics, army number A-4879, tank brigade, was wounded in Dunkirk on November 5, 1944; and an army form procured back in his hometown of Karlovy Vary, dated July 31, 1945, marks his demobilization and return to Czechoslovakia. Ominously, the final Czech document is a police report, dated March 24, 1948, refusing an application for a passport because “his travel abroad would endanger the security of the state.” He had been imprisoned briefly the month before as a “capitalist” during the 1948 Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia and found not guilty by a sympathetic judge, while more than fifty of his fur factory workers came to the courtroom to declare . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.