Dina Gold is the author of Stolen Legacy: Nazi Theft and the Quest for Justice at Krausenstrasse 17/18, Berlin, a personal account of her restitution claim on a building built and owned by her great grandfather. She will be blogging here all week as a Visiting Scribe for The ProsenPeople.
“Will the law that applied in your family’s case for restitution in former East Berlin equally apply to the Palestinians, whose homes have been stolen by Israel?”
The opening question at my very first book presentation to a packed out, standing room only, event hosted by Washington DC’s premier bookstore was so brazen, so angry, so out of place. I was at an author event talking about my new book, in which I describe tracking down a building stolen by the Nazis from my family in 1937 Berlin and how I launched a bid to reclaim it after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. And now I was in an ambush.
I paused. How to assuage the searing fury? I am not a legal expert. I am a journalist. I wrote about my experiences and my family history. I am in no position to make statements on international property law.
But the questioner was having none of it. As other members of the audience lined up behind her at the microphone, all wanting to ask me a question, she came back at me. Standing her ground, she launched into a veritable tirade of pronouncements, revealing more about herself than she realized. This was all about her. She was staking her claim as a seeker of justice and she wanted attention. She was a heroine in her own eyes, and she sought accolades for her bravery. And her whole demeanor suggested she saw me as her enemy.
At the time it was not an appropriate moment to engage in this discussion, but I have my own private thoughts about the issue this woman raised: What about exiled Cuban-Americans, and their descendants, whose properties were stolen by the Communists after Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959? These lost assets amount to a reported $100 billion at today’s values, none of which have been restituted. How about the more than 800,000 Jews from Arab countries who hail from all over the Middle East and North Africa — including Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco — who had lived in these lands for over 2,500 years and yet left in fear of their lives or were kicked out? No compensation or restitution for them, either. And while we are at it, what about the failure to sort out property claims of those refugees who lost everything from places as far afield as Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Iraq and South Africa? Or the Uighers who have had their properties confiscated by the Chinese? And the refugees fleeing Syria today who are leaving everything behind? I could go on and on. So many people, so much property, such injustice around the globe — what will happen to all these people’s assets?
But there are plenty outstanding legal minds more qualified than I to discuss restitution claims and cases. If someone is genuinely concerned about the property rights of Palestinians, rather than grandstanding at a book event, why not address their questions to an appropriately qualified person? I can guarantee that someone trained in international law will be far more erudite on the subject than an author targeted on the subject simply because they are Jewish.
Dina Gold is a former BBC investigative journalist and television producer. She is on the board of the DC JCC and currently serves as co-chair of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. She is a senior editor at Moment magazine.
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- Boris Fishman: Understanding the Villains; or, Stranger than Fiction
Dina Gold is a former BBC investigative journalist and television producer. She is on the board of the DCJCC and currently serves as council member of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. She is a senior editor at Moment magazine. Dina has been on tour all over the USA with the USHMM.
Dina Gold is available to be booked for speaking engagements through Read On. Click here for more information.