From Despair to Hope and Back

KIP - Kotarim International Publishing, Ltd

Yehudit Feuer
From Despair to Hope and Back
Yehudit Feuer

Chapter 1
2012: Celebrating 60 Years of a Historic Agreement

“There Is No Business Like Shoah Business”
It was Abba Eban, former Israeli foreign minister, who came up with the slogan above, alluding to huge profits made by the cynical use of one of the greatest man-made disasters in history:

“The mass murder of Jews under the German Nazi regime during the period 1941-5. More than 6 million European Jews, as well as members of other persecuted groups, were murdered at concentration camps such as Auschwitz.”

“Memory industry” is another slanderous label for the trade that descended from the genuine effort to commemorate the Holocaust. It stands for the prosperous commerce, dealing with books, films, memorabilia, etc., more or less linked to the Holocaust, while “Shoah business” refers to the exploitation of human suffering and loss during the Nazi regime by politicians, administrators, attorneys, and various organizations, to mention just a few of the more or less high ranking public activists and actions involved in the “business”. “Money makes the world go round” is also the central theme in the musical Cabaret, to illustrate that currency plays a very important role in our world, given its close association with Power.

Money, according to Wikipedia, is “any item or verifiable record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a particular country or socio-economic context”, while Debt, in turn, is described as
“an obligation owed by one party (the debtor) to a second party, the creditor”;
“the term can also be used metaphorically to cover moral obligations and other interactions not based on economic value” Some companies and corporations use debt as a part of their overall corporate finance strategy.”

Paying compensation to victims of the Holocaust falls into the category of the “moral obligation” that Germany was forced to fulfill after its defeat in WWII, so that the victorious Allied Forces would agree to recognize the German Federal Republic as a sovereign state.

Hence, in September 1951, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer delivered a formal message, admitting to the “unspeakable crimes” that were committed in the name of the German people, which called for the solution to “the material indemnity problem”. That solution led to the Reparations Agreement, a.k.a. The Luxembourg Agreement, which was signed in1952 by the West German and Israeli governments, and the "Claims Conference".

The implementation of paying material indemnity behooved the need to convert “infinite suffering” into cash, i.e., money made available to the holocaust victims; of course, that kind of conversion called for professional expertise – jobs that became soon filled by experts, all eager to serve the victims in question, by mediating between the individuals who have survived those “unspeakable crimes” committed during the Nazi regime – in this case “the creditors” – and Germany, i.e., “the moral debtor”.

Sixty years later, the survivors’ various expert representatives could look back at their achievements as mediators with great satisfaction.

In July 2012, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington hosted a group of such mediators from the U.S., Germany, and Israel. They all came to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Reparations Agreement that led to some of their most lucrative mediating jobs in the course of the past six decades.

Dr. Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, a British honorary academic advisor to the London-based Claims for Jewish Slave Labor Compensation and a Holocaust survivor himself, who attended the meeting in Washington, describes the attitude of the mediators as “an exercise in self-congratulation”.

In his role as honorary advisor to former slave laborers in London during talks in the 1990s, Dr. Duschinsky became closely familiar with ways in which mediators handled cases of slave labor survivors and the experts who represented the victims’ claims to German compensation.
In his article “Holocaust Reparations: The Back Story”, Dr. Duschinsky recounts some of the procedures to which slave labor survivors repeatedly fell prey; schemes concocted by the negotiators vis a vis Germany while dealing with “unspeakable crimes” of the Nazis – crimes that just a few decades earlier The Federal Government declared as “a moral and material indemnity problem”, which it was prepared to solve “... thus easing the way to the spiritual settlement of infinite suffering. “

In Dr Duschinsky’s “The Back Story”, we learn about lawyers who took multi-million dollar wages for themselves, while settling for fractions out of their own rewards for their clients, the Holocaust survivors – experts who were hired to find solution to the moral and material indemnity for Nazi victims’ infinite suffering, in the words of Chancellor Adenauer.

In one notable example, the delegate Stuart Eizenstat – a prominent Jewish corporate lawyer – reasoned that it was better for elderly survivors to settle out of court rather than pursuing lawsuits.
Why? – Because in that way, argued Mr. Eizenstat, former slave laborers would have a chance to get some money out of the several billion dollars that Germany has pledged, before they died, while lawsuits sometimes risk to be lost, or dragged out in time until the victims were no longer alive.
Eizenstat, who at some point received the "Great Negotiator" award from Harvard Law School, held a festive speech at the celebration in Washington, including the statement:

"the Claims Conference vision, we hope, of meaningful compensation and reparations during the last 60 years has truly brought a reconciliation between Germany, the Jewish people, and the state of Israel."

As to The Claims Conference, it was charged with embezzling 57 million US dollars in one of the series of its financial scandals since the organization was established. In 2006, The London Jewish Chronicle revealed that the chief official of the Claims Conference earned 437,811 US dollars a year, while forced laborers – which is the softened term that the Germans prefer to use instead of wartime slaves – received $ 7,500, and at the same time required to give up all further legal rights, i.e.: no admission to legal liability for the atrocities of the Nazi “Death through Work” program.

Isi Leibler wrote in his article “No end to Claims Conference distortions and shamelessness”:“The mishandling of sacred Holocaust restitution funds represents the greatest moral failure of organized Jewish life in our generation".

And just in case some negotiator would have any qualms about earning fortunes on account of those who survived the “unspeakable crimes”of the Holocaust – remember a seasoned psychiatrist’s assertion that “it was better that the survivors should die happy rather than be told that they were receiving a raw deal.”

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