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US to Pay Hungarian Jewry For Property Stolen During Holocaust

The US government has agreed to pay Hungarian Jews for the looting of their valuables by American soldiers during the Holocaust.
First Publish: 3/14/2005, 2:15 PM / Last Update: 3/13/2005, 6:03 PM

Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, told the New York Times that the agreed-upon sum, $25.5 million, is “a symbolic acknowledgment of an isolated and unfortunate chapter of the Americans' role in the Holocaust." Nevertheless, “the acknowledgement matters," he said. "History matters."

The stolen property included gold, silver, paintings and furs that were loaded onto a train to Austria that was intercepted by the American army in 1945. The items were sent to a warehouse, and much of it was sold to soldiers, according to a report by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States. A large portion of the property, including two suitcases filled with gold dust, was stolen by US soldiers as well.

The lawsuit, which has been ongoing for three years, originally sought $10,000 for each of some 30,000 Jews from Hungary - more than ten times the amount of the final settlement.

As part of the agreement, $21 million will be given to social welfare groups assisting needy Jews who lived in Hungary from 1939 until 1945. The settlement, which still needs to be ratified by the presiding judge, also requires the government to declassify all of the documents involved in the case for archiving.