Holocaust Restitution in the United States

The Search for Justice
  • Michael J. Bazyler


This paper examines one of the most important developments of the post-Holocaust era: the legal efforts in the United States by survivors of the Holocaust and their heirs to obtain restitution from European and American corporations1 for their nefarious activities during World War II.


Holocaust Survivor Class Action Lawsuit Austrian Bank Swiss Bank American Court 
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  1. 7.
    The Second Circuit found jurisdiction based upon a long-forgotten law, passed by the first U.S. Congress in 1789, entitled the Alien Torts Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §1350 (‘ATCA’), which declares that federal district courts shall have jurisdiction over ‘any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.’ The Filartiga court found that state-sanctioned torture is a clear violation of the law of nations, or (using modern terminology) international law, and since the plaintiffs were Paraguayan nationals, as aliens, their claims fell within the ambit of the ATCA. For a treatise discussing the Filartiga case and its aftermath, see Ralph Steinhardt and Anthony D’Amato (eds.), The Alien Torts Claim Act: An Analytical Anthology (New York: Transnational Pubs. 1999). Many of the Holocaust-era lawsuits have relied on the ATCA to establish jurisdiction in United States courts. See e.g. Sonabend v. Union Bank of Switzerland, Case No. CV-97–0461 (E.D.N.Y., filed 29 Jan. 1997) (class action against Swiss banks; alien plaintiffs assert jurisdiction under the ATCA); Snopczyk v. Volkswagen AG, Case No. 99-C-0472 (E.D. Wis., filed May 5, 1999) (slave labour lawsuit against VW; alien plaintiffs asset jurisdiction under the ATCA).Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Bazyler

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