US Supreme Court to Hear Holocaust Property Case Against Hungary

The nation’s highest court has agreed to intervene in a case over property confiscated from Jews during World War II

The US Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Holocaust survivors and their descendants can seek compensation in American courts for property taken from them in Hungary during World War II.

The court announced on Monday that it will weigh in on a lawsuit filed 14 years ago by Jewish Holocaust victims against the Hungarian government and its national railway. The central question is whether an American court has the authority to handle this case. Supreme Court justices are expected to hear arguments from both sides later this year.

The dispute dates back to 1944, when approximately 434,000 Hungarian Jews were deported on government-run trains, primarily to the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, over a two-month period. Most of the victims were killed at Auschwitz. At the time, the Hungarian government was working closely with Nazi Germany, which was facing setbacks against Soviet forces in the east and Allied forces in France.

The class-action lawsuit seeks compensation for property that was seized from the deportees. US law generally protects sovereign nations from legal liability in American courts, but the plaintiffs have argued that their case falls under an exception related to expropriations that violated international law.

However, this legal exception also requires that the property in question have a “commercial nexus” with the US. The Hungarian side’s lawyers have argued that the US legal system has no jurisdiction over the issue. They warned that violating the principle of sovereign immunity would “serve as a beacon for plaintiffs around the world to litigate all matter of grievances in domestic courts, and needlessly entangle the United States in disputes in which it has no legitimate connection.”

Just three years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the German government in a similar case involving religious artwork that the Nazis acquired from Jewish art dealers who fled the country.