Categories
History

US Supreme Court to Hear Two Holocaust-Related Cases on December 7th

Seventy-five years after the end of WWII, the US Supreme Court will hear two Holocaust-related cases on December 7, 2020:

Republic of Hungary v. Simon No. 18-1447:

JNS reports that this case concerns “14 Holocaust survivors—four of whom are naturalized U.S. citizens—suing the Hungarian government and the government-owned railroad for their role in transporting Jews to death camps. They are seeking restitution for the property that was confiscated by the government at that time.”

Question Presented :

May the district court abstain from exercising jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for reasons of international comity, where former Hungarian nationals have sued the nation of Hungary to recover the value of property lost in Hungary during World War II, and where the plaintiffs made no attempt to exhaust local Hungarian remedies?


Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp, No. 19-351:

This case concerns an art collection known as the “Guelph Treasure” (or “Welfenschatz”) should be returned to the heirs of four Jewish art dealers in Germany. The collection is reported to be worth about $250 million. See also, Washington Post story.

Questions Presented

(1) Whether the “expropriation exception” of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which abrogates foreign sovereign immunity when “rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue,” provides jurisdiction over claims that a foreign sovereign has violated international human-rights law when taking property from its own national within its own borders, even though such claims do not implicate the established international law governing states’ responsibility for takings of property; and

(2) whether the doctrine of international comity is unavailable in cases against foreign sovereigns, even in cases of considerable historical and political significance to the foreign sovereign, and even when the foreign nation has a domestic framework for addressing the claims.

Both cases raise significant procedural issues that could prevent the Court from reaching the substance of the claims. These cases are a long way from the Nuremberg War Crimes trials.

The SCOTUSblog has a good summation of the two cases.

Categories
History

Remembering the Lessons of the Holocaust

Christopher J. Dodd served in the United States Senate from 1981 to 2011. His father, Thomas J. Dodd (1907 – 1971) also served in the United States Senate. Earlier in his career, Thomas Dodd served as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials. He held the number two position on the prosecutorial team which was led by Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson (1892 – 1954).1

Thomas J. Dodd, front left, executive trial counsel, and Robert Jackson, front right, chief U.S. prosecutor and associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. (Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries) – UConn Today

In a letter to the editor of The New York Times former Senator Dodd marks the 75th anniversary of The Nuremberg War Crimes trials and explains that the “lessons of Nuremberg must be continually relearned and that the work of protecting dignity and promoting justice are the responsibility of each generation.”

He adds that at this moment, human rights, “the rule of law and even truth itself are threatened by continuing violence, resurgent authoritarianism, racism and anti-Semitism, and rampant conspiracy theories, propaganda and disinformation.”

Dodd reminds us that we have not yet learned the lessons of the Holocaust and that we ignore these lessons at our peril.

  1. Imagine a sitting Justice of the United States Supreme Court traveling to Germany to serve as a criminal prosecutor.
Categories
History

Daniel Cordier, French Resistance Hero (1920 – 2020)

Alan Cowell writing in The New York Times:

[Cordier] had been shocked to see German soldiers photographing one another at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. But as he headed toward a covert encounter with a fellow operative at a cafe on the Champs Élysées, he was even more stunned to see an old Jewish man and a child with yellow stars on their overcoats.

“The shock of this vision plunges me into an unbearable shame,” he wrote in the memoir, “Alias Caracalla.”

At first he wanted to rush up to the people he saw and embrace them to seek forgiveness, he wrote. At that moment, though, he recognized, walking toward him, the operative he was scheduled to meet. It was an epiphany: “His presence leads me back to reality: I am not in Paris to care for my conscience.”

Categories
History

George Will: Holocaust Museum Showcases Lessons for Today

George Will writing in The Washington Post on the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington:

Nothing — nothing — is unthinkable, and political institutions by themselves provide no permanent safety from barbarism, which permanently lurks beneath civilization’s thin, brittle crust.

This is why the Holocaust is the dark sun into which this democracy should peer.

Categories
Audiobooks History

‘The Liberation of Paris’

The Liberation of Paris is a gripping book that is packed full of interesting details about Nazi-occupied Paris and its last commander Dietrich von Choltitz.

Dietrich v. Choltitz – Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R63712 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE via Wikimedia Commons

At the end of WWII, Adolf Hitler ordered Choltitz to hold Paris, but if that wasn’t possible, to destroy it. Although General Choltitz had been very loyal to Hitler, he could not bring himself to obliterate the City of Light. He ultimately surrendered Paris to French forces on August 25, 1944. He’s been called the “Saviour of Paris” for preventing its destruction.

After his surrender, Choltitz was held for the remainder of the war in London and the United States and was ultimately released from captivity in 1947. He died in Baden-Baden in 1966.

The author of this exceptional book was the distinguished political scientist and biographer Jean Edward Smith. Smith’s work includes highly regarded biographies of Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower. He died on September 1, 2019 at the age of 86.

The audiobook is ably narrated by Fred Sanders, who has narrated many fine audiobooks including Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance.

Categories
Audiobooks History

Nuremberg War Crimes Trial Re-enacted

“Report from Nuremberg: The International War Crimes Trial” is a collection of reenacted radio broadcasts providing news covering the Nuremberg War Crimes trials. Given all that has been written about the trial, it is interesting to hear the contemporary radio reports. It is almost like CNN updates on the trials. The descriptions of the defendants and their dress, mannerisms and personalities were of great interest.

I commend Audible for creating these reenactments and making them available. I enjoyed listening to them. The narrators were all excellent. The sound of the mechanical typewriter at the start of each broadcast helped me imagine what it must have been like to hear these broadcasts live.

Between October 18, 1945, and October 1, 1946, the International Military Tribunal, as it was known, tried 22 people on charges of crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and conspiracy to commit such crimes. Twelve of those convicted were sentenced to death. Three defendants were acquitted.