In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 12, 2003 /17 Kislev, 5764

Push continues to rectify Nazi-era looting of a 'Gold Train'

By Jeff Shields

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

A bi-partisan clamor in Congress is growing in an effort to rectify one of the last reversible injustices against Holocaust survivors. Will they beat the clock?

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (KRT) In spring of 1945, as the Allies were marching to victory in Europe, Magda Katona was riding a boxcar away from Auschwitz, on a journey through Eastern Europe toward her hometown in Hungary.

About the same time, another train was steaming in the opposite direction, out of Hungary, away from the advancing Russian army. That train - later called the Gold Train - was laden with precious valuables the Nazis had stolen from an estimated 725,000 Hungarian Jews.

The loot, loaded into 46 rail cars by the Hungarian Nazi government, was staggering. On board were more than five tons of gold, from gold bars to gold teeth broken out of their owners' mouths; nearly 700 pounds of diamonds and pearls; more than 1,250 paintings; 5,000 Persian and Oriental rugs; and more than 1,500 cases of silverware.

The Gold Train, or 29 cars of it, fell into the hands of the U.S. Army in mid-May 1945 in Austria, and the treasure ended up in a Salzburg warehouse. According to estimates, the treasure would be worth $1 billion today. The plunder and auction of those goods remain one of the dark passages of World War II, according to a U.S. commission that investigated the case.

This week, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., is asking the Senate Judiciary Committee to conduct hearings into the government's refusal to recognize claims of the Hungarian Holocaust survivors - the first such claims filed against the United States.

"I think we've come to a point now where we should have a Judiciary oversight hearing," said Specter, who is a member of the committee.

Specter is the first Republican to join the growing clamor in Congress over the Gold Train. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., has accused the U.S. Justice Department of foot-dragging, and 14 minority members of the House Judiciary Committee have called for hearings by that panel.

Donate to JWR

The Gold Train is an "unexplained departure" from U.S. policy of returning property to Holocaust victims, according to a 1999 draft report from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States.

In May 2001, a group of Hungarian Holocaust survivors filed suit in U.S. District Court in Miami, seeking a maximum payment of $10,000 each. Their attorneys have gathered a list of more than 2,800 people who have contacted the lawyers as potential members of a class action.

The list includes Magda Katona, now 83, along with her husband, Andrew Katona, 80. The couple emigrated from Hungary in 1956, arrived in the United States in 1958, and became citizens. They now live in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

The Katonas and others from throughout the United States and Canada are asking the United States to take responsibility for the loss of the valuables that belonged to Hungarian Jews. They point out that the United States has insisted on Holocaust reparations from the Swiss, Germans and others.

"The Americans kept telling everybody that they should be responsible, but then when it comes to themselves, it's a different story," said Gabor Somjen, 72, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor now living in Morris County, N.J., with his wife, Agnes, who is a named plaintiff in the federal lawsuit.

Magda Katona was 23 when she accompanied her mother to the bank in April 1944 to "deposit" earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings, under order of the Hungarian Nazi Arrowcross Party. All Hungarian Jews were forced to put their gold, silver and other precious items in banks and abandon their homes.

Between May 15 and July 9, 1944, more than 437,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and more than 550,000 were murdered in the course of the Holocaust. Magda Katona lost her parents. Andrew Katona's mother and much of his family on his father's side were killed.

Far away from the Holocaust and content in her retirement, Magda Katona told her story stoically, but when she was done, she announced, "I won't sleep tonight."

After the war, while people such as the Katonas were staggering back to their homes to rebuild their lives, high-ranking U.S. military officers in Europe were dipping into the Gold Train.

Disregarding ample evidence that the treasure belonged to Hungarian Jews, the United States classified the cache as enemy government property, and the looting began.

"Despite official awareness of the property's Hungarian Jewish origins, once assets from the Gold Train were designated as enemy property, they became available for requisition by high-ranking U.S. officials," said the Presidential Commission's final report in 2000.

Among the officials was Major Gen. Harry J. Collins, commander of the 42d Division in western Austria. In 1945, he requisitioned furnishings, paintings and other valuables "of the very best quality and workmanship available" for his home and office, according to the commission's report. Other goods from the Gold Train were simply stolen from the poorly guarded warehouse.

Since the filing of the lawsuit, plaintiffs have obtained documents criticizing the U.S. actions, including a letter from the Army's fine arts officer in Austria, Evelyn Tucker, who was sent home in 1946 after complaining about the handling of the Gold Train.

"From then until October 1947 the negligence of this explosive situation was hardly short of being criminal," Tucker wrote in a 1949 letter to an Army official, included in an amended complaint filed this month. "There was no control then on what American officers sent home and there is very little now."

Though the French returned to Hungary portions of the Gold Train's loot that it had intercepted, the United States ignored repeated pleas to do so.

Instead, major parts of the cache were put up for auction in 1948 in New York to support war-relief efforts. A detailed inventory of those items has been made available online at www.hagens-berman.com, the Web site of the Seattle-based law firm that is leading the litigation.

One expert on the 1998 Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States called the American treatment of the Gold Train "an egregious failure of the United States to follow U.S. laws and policies concerning restitution of Holocaust victims' property."

But the same U.S. government that sanctioned the Presidential Commission has been fighting the court claims tenaciously. Justice Department lawyers first argued that the statute of limitations barred the suit. But U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz rejected that argument, saying no limit applies when the government has hidden its behavior for more than 55 years. The United States has also argued that Hungarian Jews were considered enemies at the time.

"It's clear that they're lawyering it to the hilt, without even a hint of an understanding that there are bigger issues at play," said U.S. Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, D-N.Y., a member of the House Judiciary Committee. "It's surprising to me that the attorney general doesn't call the lawyers in and say, `This is one we shouldn't be fighting.' "

The Justice Department and the Army have declined to comment, citing the suit. But in a Sept. 17 letter to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., - who forwarded a letter from the Katonas - Assistant Attorney General Peter D. Keisler said, "I can assure you that the Department is committed to working with the plaintiffs on these sensitive matters in order to reach a full and fair resolution of their claims."

Agnes Somjen, 72, still has her family's receipt for a pair of diamond earrings, three gold rings, a gold chain with medallion, a gold men's chain, and a brooch.

Somjen and other plaintiffs want at least some accountability by the U.S. government: "An acknowledgment - yes, we did it, we were wrong," she said.

Time is running out. One of the plaintiffs, George Sebok of Palm Beach, Fla., died on Sept. 29.

"The facts have largely been established," said Weiner, "and now it's a matter of making the victims whole while they're still alive to enjoy it."

Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Shields is a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer. To comment, please click here.

© 2003, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.