World War II reparation claims revisited at law school
Boalt Hall forum coincides with legal developments in Europe, Pacific

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs

13 March 2001 | Scholars and attorneys joined with consuls general, governmental officials and prominent international leaders at Boalt Hall, March 8 and 9, for “Fifty Years in the Making: World War II Reparation and Restitution Claims.”

The public forum was devoted to policy and legal issues related to claims that governments and businesses in Europe and Asia profited from human rights violations during World War II.

This discussion comes close on the heels of a global settlement with Germany over slave labor in concentration camps and coincides with debates and litigation over similar issues concerning Japanese industry, exactly a half a century after the U.S.-Japan peace treaty.

Distinguished visiting participants included Ronald Bettauer, deputy legal adviser at the U.S. Department of State, who offered Thursday’s keynote address; Peter Moser, the Austrian ambassador to the United States; Jacob Finci, president of the Jewish Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Arie Zuckerman, director of the Holocaust Restitution Unit, Office of the Prime Minister of Israel.

Berkeley Law Professor Richard Buxbaum, a symposium panelist, noted that the age of the survivors of World War II made the conversation especially timely.

“The distinguished English historian Eric Hobsbawm once said that there is a ‘twilight zone’ between the actual experience and the record of that experience in the archives of history,” Buxbaum said. The “twilight zone” is a time during which survivors of an experience reflect on it through the filter of their later lives.

“We may be coming near the end of that twilight zone,” said Buxbaum. “Some of that urgency was felt at the symposium. But equally felt was the urgency of learning from that history, as a lesson for understanding more recent, and preventing future, tragedies.”

The law school forum was the second annual symposium in memory of Stefan Riesenfeld, a leading international law scholar who escaped Nazi Germany at age 26 and taught at Boalt Hall for more than 40 years. Riesenfeld died two years ago, at age 90.


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