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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Politics of Restitution for Nazi Victims in Germany West and East (1945 – 2000)

  • Author(s): Goschler, Constantin
  • et al.

On first sight, a comparison between restitution for Nazi victims in Germany West and East does not seem to leave ample space for interpretation: While the Federal Republic at least in principle accepted their obligation to compensate former Nazi victims and paid huge amounts for that purpose over the last 50 years, the GDR only offered elaborated social security for the tiny faction of Nazi victims who decided to live in the GDR after 1949. As a consequence, while restitution in the West has been a predominantly Jewish affair, restitution in the East was chiefly a communist matter. However, in my talk I will not focus on a comparison of material payments. Rather, I am interested in the different structure of the answers of two German societies to the same problem: the persecution and killing of millions of people by the Nazi regime. This implies three sets of questions. First: On which perception of the events between 1933 and 1945 were the respective attempts at rehabilitation and compensation for Nazi victims in the two German societies based? Second: What relation between former Nazi victims and German post war societies underpinned the respective attempts at restitution? And third: What consequences did German reunification have for this process?

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