It’s time to bring this matter to an end

By Amiram Barkat

The battle waged by Holocaust survivors against Swiss banks was a resounding achievement that set a precedent for minority groups seeking reparations for historic injustices, according to Professor Michael Bazyler, an international expert in the field of Holocaust restitution. In his opinion, rising anti-Semitism, inflated legal fees, and infighting among Jewish groups with regard to the distribution of funds among Jewish organizations, did not manage to damage this battle’s overwhelming success. However, he criticizes the foot-dragging adopted by Israeli banks and the state in returning the assets of deceased Holocaust victims.

On October 3, 1996, Jewish-American attorney Edward Fagan filed a suit against the Swiss bank UBS in a New York federal district court. The appellant was Gizella Weisshaus, an elderly Holocaust survivor from Romania, who attempted, for half a century, to obtain the funds her father deposited in the Swiss bank. Weisshaus initially paid her legal fees to Fagan in the form of cakes and kugel. Her lawsuit represented the beginning of a fascinating historical, legal and political process.