The other day I blogged about my gut discomfort with the class-action lawsuit brought by children of Holocaust survivors, asking the German government to pay for their psychotherapy.
Now I’ve had a couple of days to think about why I reacted negatively to this, and here’s what I think it is: the presumption that monetary compensation can right some of the most heinous wrongs in history.
That, of course, could raise questions about general Holocaust reparations, as well, but here I think the founders of the Claims Conference were sensitive to this.
When in 1951, the presidents of 23 Jewish organizations got together to organize talks about restitution, they “made clear that these talks were to be limited to discussion of material claims, and thus the organization that emerged from the meeting was called the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany — the Claims Conference.”
The focus on material claims makes sense. The goal was to make sure Holocaust survivors received some financial aid to help them rebuild their lives. The goal was not to fix spiritual and psychological wounds or to give the Germans the opportunity to atone for their sins.
When we drift beyond the material, into the realm of the spiritual and psychological, we are saying that Holocaust reparations could actually repair. But money cannot bring kapparah for the Germans; justice cannot be bought.