9780066212647

The Victim's Fortune: Inside the Epic Battle Over the Debts of the Holocaust

John Authers; Richard Wolffe

ISBN 10: 0066212642 / 0-06-621264-2
ISBN 13: 9780066212647
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Hardcover
About this title:
Synopsis:
An extraordinary behind-the-scenes story of money, justice, and the fallout that remains from the twentieth century's worst crime.

In April 1996 a billionaire businessman pulled aside Hillary Rodham Clinton at a political fund-raiser in his Manhattan apartment. Handing Mrs. Clinton a magazine article on the secretive Swiss banks, Edgar Bronfman launched an emotional fight for the forgotten fortunes of the Nazis' victims. The First Lady took the bait, and with a simple call to her husband, set in motion a whirlwind of events that rewrote history and offered a last glimmer of hope to a dwindling number of elderly war survivors.

Backed by the White House, a small group of Americans embarked on an epic journey to pursue the debts owed to Holocaust victims for more than a half century. For five years they traveled from country to country and company to company, confronting those who profited from the war -- the bankers, insurers, and industrial executives who never fully acknowledged their companies' complicity in the Nazi crimes. Armed with class-action lawsuits and threats of economic sanctions, the disparate band of American lawyers, politicians, and Jewish groups fought fire with fire against some of the world's most powerful corporations and governments.

But what began as a moral crusade quickly degenerated into a bare-knuckled global battle that opened up painful debates about justice and how to achieve it. The demands for billions of dollars in restitution triggered bitter disputes over who should pay the survivors and who should receive the cash. Many Europeans dismissed the demands as blackmail.

The Victim's Fortune tells the remarkable tale of the Americans who cajoled, bullied, and squabbled their way across the world. It also reveals how Europeans first stonewalled, then nickel-and-dimed their way toward peace with the past.

John Authers and Richard Wolffe offer a spellbinding investigative account of this momentous international struggle, which has blazed a trail for future reparations settlements of every kind. It is a riveting political drama that captures the outsize personalities, ruthless tactics, and moral dilemmas surrounding the light over compensation, all unfolding against the backdrop of one of the darkest moments in human history.


Review:
"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

About the Author:

John Authers has been a Financial Times journalist since 1990, and conducted most of the research for this book in New York where he was the paper's banking correspondent from 1996 to 2001. Shortly after completing the manuscript, he moved to Mexico City where he is now the paper's bureau chief.

A graduate of Oxford University, he more recently took advantage of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economic and Financial Journalism to study at Columbia University, conducting the early planning for The Victim's Fortune at the journalism school, and earning an MBA from the business school

Before going to New York he worked in London, winning awards for coverage of investment (as the Unit Trust Association's national journalist of the year in 1992) and of education (as the Business and Technical Education Council's national newspaper journalist of the year for 1994). Prior to the FT, he did freelance work for London's Daily Telegraph and Guardian, and also worked for Congressional Quarterly in Washington, DC.

A keen classical singer, he has performed in Carnegie Hall and in concert halls across Europe, in the choirs for soloists including Cecilia Bartoli, Luciano Pavarotti, and Bryn Terfel. He is also an enthusiastic walker, who has climbed Kilimanjaro and reached the base camps of Everest, and of K2's Concordia glacier.

Authers lives in Mexico City with his fiancee Sara Silver, also a Financial Times journalist.

Richard Wolffe is U.S. diplomatic correspondent for the Financial Times and deputy bureau chief in Washington, D.C.



Richard Wolffe is U.S. diplomatic correspondent for the Financial Times and deputy bureau chief in Washington, D.C.

Over the last few years he has reported extensively on the presidential election, concentrating on the Bush campaign. Other stories he has covered in depth include the Microsoft antitrust trial and the campaign for Holocaust compensation.

Richard joined the Financial Times in 1994. Before moving to DC, he worked as a national reporter in the UK covering a wide news beat, including the 1997 general election and IRA terrorist attacks on the mainland.

A graduate from Oxford University, his career prior to the Financial Times included news reporting for London's Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph as well as regional news reporting in Brighton, Sussex.

His freelance work includes CNN, the BBC and The New Republic. He has also appeared on The NewsHour on PBS, MSNBC and Fox News, as well as a series of international media including CBC and Deutsche Welle.

Richard lives in Washington with his wife, Paula Cuello, and their young daughter, Ilana. Born in September 1968, he grew up in Birmingham, England.


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