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Schulze lectures on Holocaust reparations

Andrew Thagard | Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Marianne Schulze, an Austrian Fulbright scholar at the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the Notre Dame Law School, lectured Monday on legal reparations for Holocaust victims. The lecture, titled “Restitution after the Holocaust: The Limits of Legal Reparations,” coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day and was sponsored by the Jewish Law Students Society.”The concept of restitution is limited by its very nature,” Schulze said. “There are only so many things that can be given back … There are so many school years [and] years of childhood that cannot be given back. We’re not just talking about property rights, we’re talking about emotional [issues].”When addressing reparations and the horror of events like the Holocaust, Schulze explained, three principles should be considered – responsibility, recognition and remembrance. Responsibility should be accepted by the perpetrators and the society that they live in, and recognition must be applied to their victims, including acknowledging the pain they have suffered.”Those who fell victim must be recognized as such,” Schulze said.Finally, remembrance, she said, goes beyond Holocaust Remembrance Day and refers to on-going behavior brought about by a fundamental change in attitude.The issue of reparations is thus a complicated one, said Schulze, a former legal adviser to the Republic of Austria’s General Settlement Fund for Victims of the Nazi-Era. The Nazis marched into Austria on Saturday, March 13, 1938 and by that Monday things changed dramatically. Jewish students were separated from their schoolmates and ordered to attend separate institutions. Many dropped out of school completely shortly thereafter. Businesses owned by Jewish families were seized and “Aryanized” and Jewish employees were dismissed.”There was wild looting right after Hitler marched into Austria,” Schulze said, followed by systematic looting at the hands of the authorities.Many of the records for the victims’ properties and businesses were destroyed in the process, she said. Shops owned by Jewish families, for example, that were initially “Aryanized” eventually were liquidated of their assets. In addition, between 40,000 and 70,000 apartments occupied by Jewish families were “Aryanized.” After the war, Austria was slow to address these issues, Schulze said.”[Austria] did not do the utmost in helping those who had been [victimized] by the Nazis,” she said.Although the republic passed seven laws relating to restitution, they were too restrictive to benefit many of the victims, Schulze said. The laws provided insufficient time to file claims, imposed restrictions on heirs applying for compensation and created a lengthy, complicated process.In recent times, more has been done to address the injustices committed against Holocaust victims, Schulze said. In 1995 Austria created a national fund that has so far paid 27,000 people $7,000 each.”Most people responded by saying, ‘I didn’t need the money per se but what I really craved was the recognition that I was a victim,'” she said. “The national fund has really proven that … it is the recognition that is the most important in this.”Still in 2001, Austria agreed to set up a General Settlement Fund with $210 million dollars. While 18,000 people are awaiting claims, outstanding lawsuits are preventing the fund from being activated.While laws and funds such as these are beneficial, they have their limits, Schulze said.”I completely acknowledge as a lawyer that there are … limits to the law,” she said.