The Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, Douglas Davidson, develops and implements U.S. policy with respect to the return of Holocaust-era assets to their rightful owners, compensation for wrongs committed during the Holocaust, and Holocaust remembrance. The Office does this in a manner that complements and supports broader U.S. interests and initiatives in a Europe committed to democracy, pluralism, human rights, and tolerance. The Office seeks to bring a measure of justice and assistance to Holocaust victims and their families and to create an infrastructure to assure that the Holocaust is remembered properly and accurately. This is an important issue in our bilateral relations with countries of central and eastern Europe and with the state of Israel.
Much of the Office's work relates to bringing closure to issues left outstanding during the Cold War. Before 1989, the governments of Russia and its satellites refused to permit research into Holocaust questions or the payment of compensation to Holocaust victims and their heirs. The end of communist governments in eastern Europe made it possible to extend Holocaust programs to those countries.
In addition, the Office has been involved in facilitating negotiations to reach, and in implementing, various agreements on the subject of Holocaust-era claims. Class action suits in the United States in the 1990's set the stage for the negotiation of a settlement agreement with Swiss Banks and executive agreements with Germany, France, and Austria that dealt with claims arising from unpaid Holocaust-era insurance policies, as the use of forced and slave labor, the illegal seizure of private and communal property, and other personal injuries. The Special Envoy is a member of the boards of directors overseeing the French and German payments programs. He maintains close relations with Austrian officials administering the programs negotiated with the Austrian Government. He also serves as an ex-officio member of the Holocaust Memorial Council (the board of directors of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum).
In addition, the Office of the Special Envoy: