How Far Back Should Jewish Claims Go?
I am not a big fan of changing ownership of items after many years have passed. It’s true that some people ended up with assets unjustly, but it’s not clear to me that their heirs, or the people that they sold the assets to, should lose the items unless they themselves engaged in some dishonest behavior. There should be some kind of a statute of limitations, and now that World War II ended more than 60 years ago, the statute of limitations should have run. We should pick up from here and move on.
The main argument against this is the Holocaust, which arguably was so terrible, that it, like murder, should have no statute of limitations. If that’s the case, then I would argue that you should go all the way back. Look at how some of these wealthy Jews who are recovering property lost in World War II acquired that property in the first place. Did they acquire it in a totally honest, legal, moral way? If so, let it go to their heirs. If not, then undo the illegal or immoral transactions, even if you have to go back to the 16th or 17th century, and give the title to the heirs of whoever was the last moral title holder.
This would not apply to payments to ordinary people who are getting a few thousand dollars decades after suffering in concentration camps. It would apply to multimillion dollar settlements that are being fought in court. If the fortune originally came from profits from the slave trade, or exploitation of colonial peoples, for example, then don’t undo the last 50 years of transactions.