New York City Council Considers Supporting Hungarian Holocaust Survivors in Gold Train Case

City council to hold legislative hearing on resolution urging prompt and just settlement

NEW YORK – The New York City Council will begin considering a resolution Wednesday, March 3, urging justice for Hungarian Holocaust survivors in the Gold Train case, and asking the U.S. Justice Department to respect the elderly survivors and stop seeking to delay the case.

The council will hear testimony from survivors who claim family heirlooms, furniture, artwork and other personal valuables were looted and sold at auction by the U.S. government following WWII. More than a thousand Hungarian Holocaust survivors and their families live in New York City, the largest group of survivors in the country. A large group of Hungarian Holocaust survivors is expected to attend the hearing.

"Our government has called on the world to be accountable to the survivors of the Holocaust. For some reason, the U.S. Justice Department is refusing to follow the same standard," said David Yassky (D-Brooklyn), the council member who introduced the resolution. "New York City is the home for so many who lost so much. Our city should go on record on their behalf and in support of justice. It's in our finest tradition."

The hearing is the first by an American governmental body to call attention to the unjust U.S. refusal to return heirlooms to Hungarian Holocaust survivors following WWII, and could spur other government bodies to pass similar resolutions. By holding a hearing and passing this resolution, David Yassky and his colleagues will send a strong message to the Congress and the Attorney General that the fragile Hungarian Holocaust survivors cannot wait any longer for justice.

The City of New York will continue the tradition of supporting Holocaust survivors started when New York protests brought attention to insurance companies' refusal to pay claims related to Holocaust victims.

The Holocaust survivors, their families and others supporting their plight will meet in the Red Room in New York City Hall at noon to hear an update on the issue and then testify before the Committee on Cultural Affairs at approximately 1 p.m. The committee will then discuss a resolution recommending the Justice Department "promptly reach a fair settlement with [survivors] as a modest and overdue measure of justice."

"These survivors have already endured far more than anyone should be asked to which makes the continued stalling by the Justice Department even more appalling," said Michael Waldman, an attorney representing the survivors. Waldman praised Yassky and his colleagues for taking a stand at a time when the Justice Department is fighting survivors' claims so vigorously.

About the Gold Train Case
The Gold Train is one of the most notorious stories of Nazi theft to come out of World War II. In 1944, the Nazis confiscated the property of Hungary's Jewish community and loaded it onto a train for plunder. At war's end, the train was turned over to the U.S. Army for safekeeping and return to the owners. Instead, the U.S. government lied to survivors and refused to return their property. In fact, evidence shows, much of the property was looted by senior military personnel.

The truth was first revealed in a federal government report in 1999. In 2001, Holocaust survivors went to court to seek compensation for their lost property. The Justice Department has refused to settle with them.

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