Fifty years after World War II, a small group of Americans launched a campaign to confront the world with the fact that many assets looted by the Nazis had never been returned to their owners. Backed by class-action lawsuits and threats of economic sanctions, they mounted a vigorous challenge against some of the world's largest corporations and governments to demand billions of dollars. But what began as a moral crusade soon became a bare-knuckle battle that opened up painful debates about whether money can ever compensate for the horrors of the Holocaust.
John Authers and Richard Wolffe offer a spellbinding investigative account of this momentous international struggle. The Victim's Fortune captures the personalities, ruthless tactics, and moral dilemmas surrounding the fight over compensation -- all unfolding against the backdrop of one of the darkest moments in human history.
"You can't make the dead good again. We can only take a modicum of justice--a modicum of attempting to somehow right wrongs in a small way for those who are still alive." So remarked a Holocaust survivor on receiving compensation--small, but meaningful--for the tortures he had suffered six decades before. That compensation, for him and thousands of other victims, was a long time in coming. When it did, it was not done out of innate goodness on, say, the part of the banks of Switzerland, which had held billions of dollars deposited there by men and women who would not live to claim them--even though, financial journalists Authers and Wolffe are quick to remark, those banks were staffed by good and well-intentioned people. What compelled those banks, along with companies and governments throughout the world, to do so was massive legal action, a chain of class-action lawsuits that stretched out for half a decade, brought on by lawyers, victims, and civil rights groups in a dense storm of argumentation. In this careful, complex study, Authers and Wolffe detail how these actions took shape against very long odds. Their book is a fascinating case study in justice served--if, some critics continue to charge, too little and too late. --Gregory McNamee