Unresolved Claims Issues
More than half a century has passed since the Allied victory over the Third Reich. It has also been five decades since the first efforts in 1952 to ensure that the states emerging from the collapse of the Third Reich provide some restitution or compensation to Nazi victims. After 1990, a unified Germany extended the restitution policies of pre-unification Germany. Nevertheless, despite German compensation programs and the more than 100 billion Marks paid out to Nazi victims (or about $60 billion), it became apparent in the 1990s that there remained gaps and deficiencies in these restitution and compensation programs, not only in Germany but elsewhere. (Germany has paid an estimated $60 billion under earlier programs, worth over $100 billion in today's values.)
Media reports and historical studies brought the unresolved claims issues to wider public attention during the mid-1990s. Such reports led to three developments: (1) public calls to address unresolved asset claims and other wrongs, as evidenced by Congressional hearings; (2) the filing of class action lawsuits against companies and governments to obtain recovery; and (3) diplomatic efforts by the United States and other governments to ensure prompt payments to elderly victims.
By 1997, the Department of State was actively involved in facilitating negotiated resolutions of unresolved claims. The U.S. believes that negotiation leads to a more rapid payment of benefits to elderly Holocaust victims and their heirs than the continued pursuit of litigation. Moreover, negotiated settlements benefit far more Nazi victims than would litigation, given the inherent risks and uncertainties of lawsuits, the more stringent rules of evidence required by courts, and the need for plaintiffs to demonstrate a concrete link to the parties being sued. Over the course of four years, several important agreements emerged that provided some $8.5 billion in new payments to Nazi victims and their heirs: the Swiss Bank Settlement; the German Foundation Agreement; the French Bank Agreement; two Austrian Funds; and agreements on Insurance.