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Holocaust Descendents Can Join Hungary Sovereignty Appeal

July 19, 2022 News

We are pleased to report that our appeal on behalf of our Hungarian Holocaust class-representative clients will join the Hungarian sovereignty appeal.  Our partners, Chuck Fax and Liesel Schopler, are to be congratulated for this important interim decision.

Holocaust Descendents Can Join Hungary Sovereignty Appeal

Law360 (July 18, 2022, 5:43 PM EDT) — The D.C. Circuit on Monday allowed a group of four Hungarian Jews to join an appeal after having their claims against the country over property seized during World War II cut on sovereign immunity grounds.

The group will now join other families pushing the D.C. Circuit to overturn claims by Hungary that it has sovereign immunity from the lawsuit, in which the families allege the Hungarian government actively worked with occupying Nazi forces to seize victims’ property as they were taken to concentration camps.

The litigation seeks reparations from Hungary and its national railway for property stolen during the Holocaust and has dragged on for more than a decade primarily over whether the country has sovereign protection from the suit. The ruling finalizes an order from December dismissing the group of four Hungarian Jews on the grounds that Hungary was in fact immune from the suit and could not be sued.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell indicated that by finalizing his order to dismiss four of the Jewish plaintiffs and allow for an appeal, the lawsuit may actually be sped up.

“All told, in the unique circumstances of this complex and protracted litigation, the potential injustice associated with sidelining dismissed plaintiffs for an indefinite period of time greatly outweighs the limited additional litigation that may or may not ensue,” Judge Howell wrote.

In an emailed statement, David Weinstein, an attorney representing victims and their families in the suit, said they are pleased with the decision by the chief judge.

“The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will now have before it all of the remaining legal issues surrounding Hungary’s assertion of sovereign immunity,” the statement said. “After more than a decade of litigation of the sovereign immunity issues, we look forward to having them resolved by the Court of Appeals, so that the victims of the Holocaust can prove their case at trial on the merits.”

Counsel for Hungary and its state railway MÁV declined to comment.

If the litigation is saved on appeal, the potential class could swell to 5,000 individuals whose families lost property, according to the amended lawsuit.

Now the D.C. Circuit will hear from the families and the Republic of Hungary over whether the nation should be given sovereign immunity in the suit. A finding that the country is immune could be a significant blow to reparation efforts in the suit.

Originally filed in 2011, the lawsuit attempts to recover losses from property stolen during the Holocaust including watches, jewelry, clothes and other personal effects.

According to the amended lawsuit, the Hungarian government recognized the need to recompense the victims of the Holocaust but never enacted policies to pay them back for the property.

Shortly after the conclusion of World War II, the Hungarian government understood that antisemitism was still prevalent, but did little to stop it according to the lawsuit.

In at least one instance following the end of the war, the lawsuit acknowledges a family was paid $5,000 in compensation after the death of three family members. None of the families have received payment for their lost items, the suit states.

The family is represented by Charles S. Fax, and Liesel J. Schopler of Rifkin Weiner Livingston LLC, L. Mark Zell of Zell Aron & Co., Paul G. Gaston of Law Offices of Paul G. Gaston and David H. Weinstein of Weinstein Kitchenoff & Asher LLC

The Republic of Hungary and Mav Magyar Allamvasutak Zrt. are represented by Konrad L. Cailteux, Brian K. Gibson and Audrey Stano of Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP.

The case is Simon et al. v. Republic Of Hungary et al., case number 1:10-cv-01770, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

–Editing by Jay Jackson Jr.