- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: PublicAffairs (January 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 158648110X
- ISBN-13: 978-1586481100
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,810,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Imperfect Justice: Looted Assets, Slave Labor, and the Unfinished Business of World War II Hardcover – January 7, 2003
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
Think of this book as one-stop shopping to learn about the Holocaust restitution negotiations of the late 1990s. Eizenstat was at the center of the tornado, as European companies and banks belatedly made compensation for their WWII-era behavior. In this comprehensive, well-written and unsparing reflection on those negotiations, the former Clinton administration official offers a behind-the-scenes look at how agreements were reached to provide Holocaust survivors with monies they or their families had lost during the war. He begins with the unusual pair of World Jewish Congress (whose president, Edgar Bronfman, was a friend of Clinton's) and Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, who teamed up to make this an issue that Europe could not ignore. Whether writing about the most well-publicized of these negotiations-the German slave labor agreement or the "Swiss gold" affair, which eventually led to a $1.25-billion settlement-or some of the lesser-known accords, Eizenstat tells his story with flair and with due regard for the role of politics (D'Amato, for instance, "milked the Swiss controversy for everything it was worth"). According to Eizenstat, some elements of the survivors' cases carried little legal weight, but European governments and firms wilted under public relations pressure, often purposefully intensified by lawyers on behalf of the survivors. While other books have been written about this subject, none has been as comprehensive or as balanced. 8 pages of b&w photos, not seen by PW. FYI: The New York Times recently reported on the furor created by the book jacket-a gold swastika superimposed on the Swiss flag -in Switzerland.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Although he served in a variety of high-level economic and diplomatic positions during the Clinton administration, Eizenstat will likely go down in American history as the father of the State Department's Office of Holocaust Issues and architect of a series of agreements designed to compensate Jews and others for atrocities suffered in World War II. His story begins with an old woman's attempt to locate her father's wartime Swiss bank account and spirals quickly into an emotionally charged, multibillion-dollar international knot of lawyers, bankers, and politicians. Eventually, the pursuit of reparations extends to the governments of Germany, Austria, and France, as well as to corporations profiting from slave labor on both sides of the Atlantic. The settlements reached are indeed "imperfect justice," but Eizenstat's personal narrative illustrates just how amazing it is that such settlements were reached at all. His highly detailed blow-by-blow of the negotiating process is an illuminating look at the nitty-gritty of human-rights law, but more satisfying for general audiences will be the author's noble vision of conciliation, which rises above petty legal vindictiveness. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features:
Showing 1-4 of 11 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
One thing Eizenstat brings out is that the Jewish community of America seems to have problems getting along with the European Jewish community. There is also a question of style, in that American president Bronfman would show up with a huge entourage, whereas European Jews tend to be more subtle.
My role in this sordid tale, which got cut out of the book for reasons below, regards the looted books. Just check the index and you will not see "Offenbach Depot" or "Library of Congress." What happened during WWII was that the Nazis not only looted art but books as well. In an odd twist of fate, the Nazis wanted to found a center to study Jews and Judaism. With that in mind, they collected over a million books rather than destroy them. At the end of the war the Nazis had them stored at the Offenbach Depot along with a number of other items.
A committee was set up, which included men from the Library of Congress, in order to repatriate books to the countries they had been looted from. The Nazis had also identified individual Jews with their own private libraries (I believe of 10,000 books) and confiscated those as well as items from Jewish libraries and synagogues. Just as with the art, many of the Jew owners had been murdered, so they went back to the country of origin. But what to do about Germany and those considered "unclaimed?" It was decided these for the most part would go to newly-founded Israel as the moral inheritors.
Unfortunately, in my opinion (and for which I was quoted in The Washington Post), the Library of Congress brought over hundreds of thousands of books, keeping some for their own collection and distributing others to 250 institutions. This is where I come in. I was the Library employee who had brought over the Library archives from storage (35 boxes I think) for some research on Third Reich materials in the Rare Book Division. For this reason, I was called to speak with the historian on Clinton's presidential commission as well as, three days later, the historian for the Department of Justice working on the same issue.
I told both the same thing when they asked "Does the Library have any Holocaust loot?": Yes. Surprised, they asked me how I knew. Easy, the documents point to this. Furthermore, there are stamps on the books which so identify them. Indeed, "transfer" and Offenbach Depot identifiers are all over the books. The problem, as I told them, is twofold. First, with over 20 million books at the Library, the majority of the loot was in the general collection. Secondly, thousands were sent to other libraries. I provided each with copies of the documents proving this. Interestingly, a number of the institutions receiving the material were worried about the legality and morality of the books. Of all the institutions that received the books, though, only Canada properly identified each book as being Holocaust loot. This was in case a family member appeared and wanted to search for family property.
After finding this out, Eizenstat's assistant called me up and asked to meet me. I agreed, but told him only off-site. I was then told that the Librarian of Congress, James Billington, had told this man to get lost. I then came home to a message on my answering machine from Bronfman's assistant, Elan Steinberg, giving me his office and cell phone numbers. By the time I called him back in a couple of days, events had moved very rapidly, including a DOJ meeting where my name was mentioned quite a few times. A woman answered Steinberg's phone and told me he didn't want to talk to me. Fine.
The book issue was at first on the commission's website, which I copied before they decided to erase that part. So what happened when I met Eizenstat? At the book talk at the Library of Congress he was warmly greeted by the Librarian as "his friend of thirty years." Okay. At the book signing I identified myself as the "unidentified Library employee" in his initial report regarding the books. His pen stopped in mid-air before he could sign. "Was this resolved to your satisfaction?" I replied, "Absolutely not."
This book, therefore is quite hypocritical on the part of the author. I am sure he is a nice guy and means well. But this country builds statues to people who tell the truth simply for the fact that telling the truth is always quite difficult--otherwise everybody would always tell the truth. I paid a price for telling the truth, even though I have no agenda and am not Jewish or the son of some SS doctor. That's why I read with amusement his closing statement and quote on page 356, "It is not your obligation to finish the task, but neither are you free to exempt yourself from it."
Although I had read about some of the many settlements made in the 1990s by European countries and companies concerning slave labor, looted bank accounts, and misdeeds during World War II, I had no idea of the scope of that experience and effort until I read this book. It's a candid appraisal of how class action lawyers, Jewish groups, the U.S. government, some state government officials, some well-meaning Europeans and lots of recalcitrant parties came together to recognize wrongs that had been previously ignored.
To me, it was shocking to recognize the full extent of misbehavior during World War II. The numbers of slave laborers and the conditions are beyond easy comprehension.
The misbehavior of companies and countries since then to take advantage of those who were victims of the Holocaust and the Nazi era was even more shocking. The insensitivity and lack of concern for others described in this book made me shake my head in disgust.
I also came away with a different impression of the leaders and Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Israel and many other countries as a result of understanding more about how they handled these issues. It's an important education that you should have for yourself.
Ultimately, we must all be very grateful for the good will of those who worked so hard to provide some justice (including apologies and some payments) for those who had been overlooked and ignored for so long. Those who obstructed the process know who they are (and the book names many of them), and should be ashamed of themselves.
I was pleased to see that this paperback version has a new epilogue to update the implementation of the agreements since the end of the Clinton administration. I was disappointed to see that the Bush administration has not been very effective in following up on the fine work that preceded them in office in this important area.
If you think justice is important, read this book!
That said, I found this book quite difficult to read. Eizenstat's blow-by-blow descriptions of the seemingly endless negotiations lack dramatic structure and are far too detailed for a book intended for the general reader. When Eizenstat looks at the big picture -- the differing political cultures of France and the United States, the Austrians' cramped apologetics for their role in the Holocaust -- he is convincing. But far too much of this book feels as if it's written by a lawyer for other lawyers. It needed an editor who could get past Eizenstat's note cards and create a real narrative.