The Holocaust restitution lawsuits, filed mostly as class actions in American courts in the latter half of the 1990s, yielded billions of dollars in settlements for Holocaust survivors and their heirs. The American lawsuits, and the concomitant political campaign by American Jewish leaders and American government officials, also unearthed valuable historical data about the financial crimes of the Nazis and their cohorts during WW II. This post-Holocaust restitution movement, while viewed as a success, nevertheless created troubling moral issues, and this article focuses on five of them. First, does the demand for financial restitution demean the memory of the Holocaust? Second, once the funds are collected, how are they to be fairly distributed? This raises the provocative issue of who should be deemed a "Holocaust survivor." Third, should some of these restitution funds be allocated for Holocaust education and remembrance, or do they belong solely to survivors? Fourth, while payments to individual survivors from these settlements were in the thousands of dollars, the class-action attorneys earned fees in the millions. Are these attorneys entitled to such fees, even though the fees represent less than 2 percent of the total amounts collected through the litigation? Fifth, many of the lawsuits were defended by Jewish lawyers. Although European corporations accused of wrongful conduct both during and after WW II are free to hire Jewish lawyers to defend their interests, should lawyers who are Jewish have taken on the defense of such suits? By confronting these gray zones of post-Holocaust restitution, this article aims to shed light on this latest and wholly unexpected legacy of the Holocaust.
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