14 Holocaust survivors sue Hungary in U.S. court

The arrival of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. Credit: The German National Archive via Wikimedia Commons.

The arrival of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. Credit: The German National Archive via Wikimedia Commons.

(JNS.org) Fourteen Hungarian Holocaust survivors have filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. against the Hungarian government and its national train company for cooperation with the Nazis, complicity in the deportation of more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews, and confiscation of property.

Currently, Hungary does not compensate Holocaust survivors or their heirs, nor has the country ever been prosecuted for collaborating with Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.

Six of the plaintiffs currently live in Israel, while the others live in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. The federal court initially rejected the lawsuit, but that ruling was overruled last week on appeal, sending the lawsuit back to the U.S. court.
"We did not establish a sum, but in actuality it will amount to billions of dollars. This is basically a class action lawsuit. If we win, a fund under the court's supervision with a mechanism that will inform every Holocaust survivor and their families will be established, and then the court will make sure the money is distributed according to a formula that it will determine," said Israeli-American lawyer Marc Zell, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs and is also a relative of a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
"This is a large and important lawsuit that arrives 71 years after the war. A relatively large amount of Hungarian Holocaust survivors and their descendants live in Israel. There were attempts in the past to get reparations from Nazi criminals in Hungary, but this case is unique because this is the first time the Hungarian government is being sued. Usually the Nazi crimes occurred in areas where there was no independent regime, such as Poland. There, the Nazis established their own regime and they are the ones who committed the crimes, as well as Poles who cooperated with them," explained the lawyer.

Zell described the Hungarian government as "anti-Semitic from the start" during the Holocaust.

"In our lawsuit, we also mentioned the Hungarians' activities in 1941—before the big deportation," he said. "They expelled 20,000 Jews from Hungary proper into the hands of the Nazis, and all of them were shot to death in Ukraine. They initiated this, without the Germans asking them to do it. The Hungarians wanted to get rid of the Jews. In 1944, the remaining Jews were deported by the Hungarians to Auschwitz and Mauthausen in trains, and basically they were sent to their deaths.” 

The lawsuit was filed in America, said Zell, “because the U.S. has a law that gives the option for individuals to file a claim for damage caused to them by a foreign government or a foreign government's company.”

Posted on February 4, 2016 .