Religion & Beliefs

What Do We Really Get From Restitution?

Just in time for Yom Hashoah, there's an interesting conversation over at the Virtual Talmud, about restitution for the Holocaust. In truth, I've never really thought much about this issue.  I've always accepted it as a given that horrible people … Read More

By / April 13, 2007

Just in time for Yom Hashoah, there's an interesting conversation over at the Virtual Talmud, about restitution for the Holocaust.

In truth, I've never really thought much about this issue.  I've always accepted it as a given that horrible people who do horrible things should pay for them.  But reading about how all of this began has got me thinking…

In 1952 the Prime Minster of Israel, David ben Gurion made one of the gutsiest and hardest political decisions ever to have been made, he accepted restitution funds from West Germany –a country that had just murdered six million Jews. Many objected including future Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Ben Gurion held firm and saw the money as a means towards the end of an eternal antidote to another Holocaust: a powerful state of Israel.

Call me a dolt, but I would have assumed everyone was all about restitution.  It never really entered my mind to think of the implications of accepting money…  it never really occurred to me that such a payment might imply that things were "settled."

Because of course they aren't, can never be.

But it's also true what Rabbi Grossman says…

the agreement by Germany to pay restitution signified that Germany publicly accepted responsibility for its role in the destruction of European Jewry. There is a form of justice in such an admission.

The money is symblic, shows accountability.  And any unwillingness to pay out suggest a lack of that accountability.

Going back to my thoughts yesterday on Yom Hashoah, I find myself thinking about how, when one doesn't want to take money on principle, one can re-route such funds.  How we might think about applying restitution funds to someplace like Darfur. 

Making the money mean more.