Academic journal article Shofar

Nach der Verfolgung: Wiedergutmachung Nationalsozialistischen Unrechts in Deutschland?

Academic journal article Shofar

Nach der Verfolgung: Wiedergutmachung Nationalsozialistischen Unrechts in Deutschland?

Article excerpt

Nach der Verfolgung: Wiedergutmachung nationalsozialistischen Unrechts in Deutschland? edited by Hans-Günter Hockerts and Christiane Kuller. Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2003. 285 pp. euro20.00.

This important anthology offers a brief yet wide-ranging examination of German compensation (Wiedergutmachung) to the survivors of Nazi persecution. Since 1945, debates over Wiedergutmachung have played an important role in German politics and diplomacy, and have figured significantly in the development of national identity and historical consciousness. Nonetheless, the body of scholarship devoted to this subject remains limited. Only the 1952 agreement between West Germany and Israel has been subjected to thorough analysis. Fortunately, a good deal of intensive research is now underway in Germany to address this lacuna. The volume under review summarizes the findings of established and young historians who are working in the area. Its 12 essays originated as contributions to a conference held at Dachau in October 2002, under the auspices of the Dachau Symposia on Contemporary History. The published essays deal overwhelmingly with West Germany and the post-1990 unified Federal Republic. East Germany, whose efforts with regard to compensation were minimal, are examined in one comparative essay. The essays cover a wide range of themes, ranging from the restitution of Aryanized property in the early post-war period, while (West) Germany was still under Allied control, to transcultural reconciliation efforts sponsored by the Catholic and Protestant churches, to the recently established corporate fund to compensate victims of Nazi forced labor programs. Although Jews are not the only victims and survivors discussed in the book, they are at the heart of many of the essays.

The introductory essay by Hans Gunter Hockerts provides a highly useful overview of the subject, summarizing the origins and evolution of various forms of compensation, and reviewing the most important laws, policies, and controversies that arise in the subsequent essays. Hockerts defends the use of the term "Wiedergutmachung" which, according to some critics, has fostered the illusion that things could be actually be "made good again." Hockerts argues that the concept, as employed by the West Germans, had never really carried apologetic connotations, but had rather been intended as a sincere acknowledgment of German guilt and as a gesture of good will toward the victims. Hockerts explains that Wiedergutmachung encompassed several processes. Within Germany it included restitution (Rückerstattung) of stolen or damaged property; indemnification (Entschädigung) for deprivation of freedom and damage to health; pensions; and the legal rehabilitation of persons unjustly condemned by the Nazi legal system. Outside of Germany, Wiedergutmachung involved a complex set of bilateral treaties between Germany and a host of other countries. In many instances, financial compensation was at the heart of the matter, a fact that has led some critics to complain about the so-called "monetization of memory. …

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