Holocaust survivors sue Hungary

14 Holocaust survivors sue the Hungarian government and a train company for complicity with the Nazi regime in the US.

Raphael Poch,

Jews in Hungary (illustration)
Jews in Hungary (illustration)
Yoni Kempinski

Six Israeli citizens along with four other Holocaust survivors have filed a class action lawsuit in the United States against the Hungarian government and the Hungarian national train corporation, MAV, for their cooperation with the Nazi regime.

The lawsuit accuses the two defendants of cooperating to deport over 500,000 Jews during the Holocaust from Hungary and freezing their assets.  

Hungary is the last European country to come to an agreement with Holocaust survivors and their children following World War II. The Hungarian government was also never brought to justice for helping the Nazis attempt to kill all the Jews of Europe. 

The suit was filed at the Federal Court in Washington by the Israeli, American, Canadian and Australian citizens. The court originally rejected the suit claiming that the treaty between Hungary and the allies, signed in 1947, protects Hungary from such lawsuits.

However, the survivors appealed the decisions and the Federal Court of Appeals accepted the earlier interpretation of the law and determined that the case should continue in the Federal Court.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, another group of survivors attempted to file a class action suit at the Federal Court in Chicago, but the court continually dismissed the case telling the plaintiffs that they should file the case in Hungary.  

American-Israeli Marc Zell submitted the suit in Washington. "We did not set a price in the suit, but the amount should be somewhere in the millions of dollars. If we are successful a fund will be set up that will be overseen by the court. The fund will notify all of the survivors from Hungary, and their families, and the court will determine how much money is to be given out to each survivor. This is an important and costly suit that comes 71 years after the war ended."

Zell, who himself is a descendant of a Hungarian survivor added that "in Israel there is a relatively large number of Holocaust survivors and their descendant who come from Hungary." 

Zell claimed that the train company has records of every passenger whom they sent to Auschwitz or Mauthausen. "They even sent a bill to each passenger charging them for their transportation and the transportation of their belongings and family members. We are suing a train company that sent more than 500,000 Jews to their deaths. " 

In the US there is a law that protects foreign countries from law suits. "Generally one cannot sue a government. However there are rare instance in which US law will allow individuals or a group of individuals to sue a foreign government or a government body if the accused has confiscated property in a way that violates international law," Zell explained.

"It is ironic that we can sue Hungary for the property which they confiscated from each of the victims, but we cannot sue them for the suffering and eventual murder that they underwent. Our chances are better now that the case has been accepted by the Federal Court of Appeals, but we now have to return to the District Court in order to carry on with the case." 

Zell explained that the reason why the case was filed in the US is "because in the United States there is a law that allows an individual to sue a foreign state or government, or a government body, for damages that were caused by them. We are utilizing that law to help the victims of the Holocaust." 




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