The Holocaust – the Nazi (national socialism) genocide of six million Jews in Europe during World War II is not only historically the most extreme episode of anti-semitism in terms of numbers, but also in terms of the viciousness of techniques utilized in pursuit of mass murder – gas chambers, crematoria, mass shootings, medical experimentation, force labor, death marches, starvation. Moreover, Nazi propaganda developed in the war against the Jews has been the source of much of the anti-semitic material in circulation today. An example of the tropes used in propaganda which is still in vogue is found in Joseph Goebbels’ 1941 essay “The Jews are Guilty!”
The horror of the Holocaust was exposed in great detail during the Nuremberg Trials and the trial of Adolf Eichmann on which documentation can be found below. Further suggestions for exploration are at the bottom of this page, which is otherwise focused on matters of a legal character arising from the ashes of the Holocaust.
- The Reparations Agreement Between Germany and Israel
- Nuremberg Tribunals – 1945-1949
- Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem – 1961
- Holocaust Denial
- Holocaust Restitution
- Holocaust Education
- Other Relevant Materials
- Some On-line Resources
After WWII, the Allied Powers set as a condition for the return of full sovereignty to Germany, the payment of reparations to Holocaust victims. Negotiations did not begin until 1952, creating political turmoil and controversy in both Israel and Germany, but nevertheless resulting in two related agreements signed by Israel and Germany on 10 Sep 1952, and entered into force on 27 Mar 1953.
UN Treaty Series, Vol. 162, No. 2137 [English and French translation]
Under the agreement, Germany committed to pay Israel a sum of 3 billion German marks (app. US $715 million) over a period of years. The reparations payments were to be made to the State of Israel as the heir to those victims who had no surviving family. The money was to be used for investment in the country’s infrastructure, paid directly from the German government to the headquarters of the Israeli purchase delegation in Cologne in annual installments. The delegation would then buy goods and have them shipped them to Israel, receiving orders from a Tel Aviv-based company set up to decide what to purchase and for whom. A great part of the reparations money went into purchasing equipment and raw materials for companies that were owned by the government, the Jewish Agency, and the Histadrut labor union.
In addition, Germany agreed to provide to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany 450 million German marks for the relief, rehabilitation and resettlement of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.
The agreement included two protocols:
Protocol No. 1 [English and German, with French translation] called for the enactment of laws that would compensate Nazi victims directly for indemnification and restitution claims arising from Nazi persecution.
Protocol No. 2 [English and German, with French translation] provided for payment by the West German government of 450 million German marks to the State of Israel for the benefit of the Conference on Jewish
Material Claims against Germany, on behalf of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.
UN Treaty Series, Vol. 345, No. 4961 [English and French translation]
This supplemental agreement concerned German property in Israel which, during World War II, had been vested by the British administration in the Office of Custodian of Enemy Property. The Israeli “German Property Law, 5710-1950” transferred these German assets to a Custodian of German Property, to be held as security against German claims by Israeli citizens. The agreement created a negotiating mechanism to handle the disposition of the German property.
- Karen Heilig, From the Luxembourg Agreement to Today: Representing a People, Berkeley J. Int’l Law, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 176-196 (2002)
- Frederick Honig, The Reparations Agreement between Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany, Amer. J. Int’l Law, Vol. 48, No. 4, pp. 564-578 (Oct., 1954)
- Kurt Grossmann, Germany’s Moral Debt: The German-Israel Agreement (1954)
- P.G., German Reparations to Israel: The 1952 Treaty and Its Effects, The World Today, Vol. 10, No. 6 (Jun., 1954), pp. 258-274
- Menachem Z. Rosensaft and Joana D. Rosensaft, The Early History of German-Jewish Reparations, Fordham Int’l. Law J., Vol. 25, No. 6, pp. S1-S45 (2001)
- Yaacov Sharett, ed., The Reparations Controversy: The Jewish State and German Money in the Shadow of the Holocaust, 1951–1952 (2011),
posted per the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 License; also available at De Gruyter
- National Library of Israel, The Reparations Agreement of 1952 and the Response in Israel
- The Claims Conference, History
Germany and other countries have subsequently agreed to additional reparation payments. Some sources of information:
- Jewish Virtual Library – Holocaust Restitution: German Reparations
- Sixty-Five Years of the Claims Conference – A Chronology
- Summary of Major Holocaust Compensation Programs – from Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation (Swiss Banks), (2000)
Trial records at The Nizkor Project
The 15 criminal counts against Eichmann
Summary of the Case
District Court Judgment
Judgment on Appeal
Sentencing by the Court
Documentation at at the Israel State Archives English Hebrew
A treatment of this subject is beyond the scope of this project. More can be learned from the following:
- International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Working Definition of Holocaust Denial and Distortion
- United States Holocaust Museum, Holocaust Denial and Distortion
- Holocaust Denial on Trial, Resources about the David Irving v. Penguin Books Ltd. and Deborah Lipstadt trial
- Memorial and Museum – Auschwitz-Birkenau, Holocaust Denial
- Wikipedia, Holocaust Denial
- Wikipedia, Laws Against Holocaust Denial [contains legislative provisions by country, and a chart referencing litigation.]
Resources in Print:
- International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Paper on Holocaust Distortion and Denial, 13 May 2019 [periodically updated – check on-line]
- Deborah E. Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: the growing assault on truth and memory, 1994
- Don D. Guttenplan, The Holocaust on Trial, 2001
- Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Holocaust Denial Is a Form of Hate Speech, Amsterdam Law Forum, Vol. 2, No.1 (2009) [also on-line]
Litigation [noted here are two significant cases among the many litigated]
Irving v. Penguin Books Limited, Deborah E. Lipstadt,  EWHC QB 115 (Gray, J.), appeal rejected,  EWCA Civ 1197 (Pill, J.). British author David Irving sued the defendants in the British courts in 1996, asserting that Lipstadt had libeled him in her book Denying the Holocaust. The court ruled that Irving’s claim of libel relating to English defamation law and Holocaust denial was not valid because Lipstadt’s claim that he had deliberately distorted evidence had been shown to be substantially true. The case was conducted as a bench trial before Mr. Justice Gray, who produced a massive written judgment in favor of the defendants, detailing Irving’s systematic distortion of the historical record of the Holocaust and Hitler’s role therein. [comprehensive collection of litigation documents on-line]
Pastörs v. Germany, Eur. Ct. of Hum. Rts. (application no. 55225/14), 3 Oct 2019. The case concerned the conviction of a parliamentary deputy for denying the Holocaust during a speech in the regional Parliament. The Court found that the applicant had intentionally stated untruths to defame Jews, and that such statements were not protected by the right of freedom of speech offered by the European Convention on Human Rights, as they ran counter to the values of the Convention itself. Court’s Press Release Judgment
As with Holocaust denial, treatment of Holocaust restitution, both legislation and litigation, is beyond the scope of this project.
The following two references provide extensive information and background discussion with respect to litigation up to 2006, the first categorizing the litigation into the following areas: banks, slave labor, insurance, and looted art.:
- Michael Bazyler and Roger P. Alford, Holocaust Restitution: Perspectives on the Litigation and Its Legacy, 2006
- Michael J. Bazyler, Holocaust Justice: The Battle for Restitution in America’s Courts, 2003
More recent discussions:
- Leora Bilsky, The Holocaust, Corporations, and the Law: Unfinished Business, 2017
- Leora Bilsky, Transnational Holocaust Litigation, Eur. J. Int’l Law, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp. 349-375 (2012)
- Donald Burris, Unfinished Business of the Twentieth Century: The Quest for the Recovery of Nazi-Looted Art, International Society of Barristers Quarterly, Vol. 52, No. 1 pp. 35-40 (2019)
- Burris, Donald S., From Tragedy to Triumph in the Pursuit of Looted Art: Altmann, Benningson, Portrait of Wally, von Saher and Their Progeny, John Marshall Rev. of Intellectual Prop. Law, vol. 15, no. 3, p. 394-434 (2016)
On the matter of restitution, the Terezin Declaration, was issued by 46 countries on 30 Jun 2009 (a 47th, Serbia, later joined the declaration), agreeing on measures to right economic wrongs that accompanied the Holocaust against the Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution in Europe. It is neither a treaty nor legally binding international agreement. A year later 43 of the signatories (excluding Belarus, Malta, Russia and Poland) endorsed a companion document, the 2010 Guidelines and Best Practices for the Restitution and Compensation of Immovable (Real) Property, which set best practices for immovable property. According to the guidelines, also not legally binding, restitution of the actual property (in rem) is preferred. However, when not possible, payment or substitute property that is a “genuinely fair and adequate” substitute would be an alternative.
The government of the United States has recently expressed its concern with Holocaust restitution through passage of the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today Act of 2017, P.L. 115-71, which became law on 9 May 2018. The act requires the State Department to issue a report to Congress within 18 months “that assesses and describes the nature and extent of national laws and enforceable policies of covered countries regarding the identification and the return of or restitution for wrongfully seized or transferred Holocaust era assets.”
Laws mandating education about the Holocaust have been enacted in Austria, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as in several American states.
Europe – [citations needed]
- Federal – Never Again Education Act, H.R. 943, signed 29 May 2020
- California – Education Code – EDC § 51220
- Connecticut – Pub. Act 18-24, Laws of 2018 Educ. Department website
- Florida – Title 48, Ch. 1003, Sec. 1003.42 Educ. Department website
- Illinois – 105 ILCS 5/27-20.3 Holocaust and Genocide Commission website
- Kentucky – Ann Klein and Fred Gross Holocaust Education Act Educ. Department website
- Michigan – Act 170 of Public Acts of 2016
- New Jersey – N.J.S.A. 18A:35-28 Educ. Department website
- New York – Cons. Laws, Educ., Art. 17, Sec. 801
- Oregon – Ch. 253, Laws of 2019
- Pennsylvania – Act of Jun. 26, 2014, P.L. 776, No. 70
- Rhode Island – Ch. 092 and Ch. 104, 2016 Laws Educ. Department website
- Washington – Ch. 85, 2019 Laws
Nuremberg Anti-Jewish Laws – 15 Sep 1935
Hitler’s Confidential Memorandum on Autarky (Economic Independence) – August 1936
In laying out his economic vision, Hitler made the following statement: “I consider it necessary for the Reichstag to pass the following two laws: (1) A law providing the death penalty for economic sabotage, and (2) A law making the whole of Jewry liable for all damage inflicted by individual specimens of this community of criminals upon the German economy, and thus upon the German people.”
Hitler’s Reichstag Speech – 30 Jan 1939
In this speech, delivered only 7 months before Germany ignited World War II, Hitler made very clear his view of the future of European Jewry: “The world has sufficient space for settlements, but we must once and for all get rid of the opinion that the Jewish race was only created by God for the purpose of being in a certain percentage a parasite living on the body and the productive work of other nations. The Jewish race will have to adapt itself to sound constructive activity as other nations do, or sooner or later it will succumb to a crisis of an inconceivable magnitude… Today I will once more be a prophet: If the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!”
29 Million Reasons – Speech delivered by Yehuda Bauer during the dinner for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, 22 Jan 2020
Israel was among the first countries to enact a national law ratifying the Genocide Convention. After signing the Convention in 1949, it passed the Law for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in March 1950. Among significant elements of the law is the fifth clause, which allows the State of Israel to bring to trial those responsible for genocide, even if the crimes did not take place within Israel’s jurisdiction. According to clause 9 of the Criminal Procedure Law (Consolidated Version) 5742-1982, there is no statute of limitations for violations of this law.
♦ Michael J. Bazyler and Julia Y. Scheppach, The Strange and Curious History of the Law Used to Prosecute Adolf Eichmann, 34 Loy. L.A. Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 417 (2012)
♦ Orna Ben-Naftali & Yogev Tuval, Punishing International Crimes Committed by the Persecuted: The Kapo Trials in Israel, 4 J. Int’l Crim. Just. 128 (2006)
Michael Bayzler, Holocaust, Genocide, and the Law: A Quest for Justice in a Post-Holocaust World (2016)
The direct connection between the Holocaust and a great deal of contemporary law is seldom acknowledged in legal texts, and has never been the subject of a full-length scholarly work. Bayzler’s book examines the background of the Holocaust and genocide through the prism of the law; the criminal and civil prosecution of the Nazis and their collaborators for Holocaust-era crimes; and contemporary attempts to criminally prosecute perpetrators for the crime of genocide. It provides the history of the Holocaust as a legal event, and sets out how genocide has become known as the “crime of crimes” under both international law and in popular discourse. It goes on to discuss specific post-Holocaust legal topics, and examines the Holocaust as a catalyst for post-Holocaust international justice.