In a surprise legal development that could impact on the Bush administration, a Manhattan federal appeals court last week quietly breathed new life into potential billion-dollar class-action lawsuits by Holocaust survivors against the governments of Poland and Austria over the loss of their property during and after World War II.
Last week, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturned a Brooklyn federal judge's June 2002 decision to dismiss the case "Garb vs. Poland" on the grounds that Poland was protected by sovereign immunity.
After weeks of refusing to negotiate Holocaust claims with an Austrian government that includes the anti-immigrant Freedom Party, a Jewish leader has proposed a solution: negotiate with the Austrian National Fund, a body established by Austria's parliament to pay compensation to as many as 30,000 victims of Nazi persecution.
A request to charge $1,500 for reading the book "Nazi Gold" is contained in a court document from lawyers of Holocaust victims who are seeking $13.5 million in fees from the $1.25 billion Swiss bank settlement, according to the World Jewish Congress.
"Holocaust survivors are being exploited by a feeding frenzy of fee-grabbing lawyers," charged WJC executive director Elan Steinberg.
A free comprehensive guide that describes the dozens of compensation and restitution programs available to Holocaust survivors is being made available by Jewish social service agencies nationwide.
In the New York area, 13 agencies will be distributing the 50-page booklet prepared by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. It explains the current and pending restitution and compensation programs, the criteria for eligibility and how to apply.