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A Challenge to the Hungarian National Railroad

May 30th 2016

In June 2006, a highly regarded historian of the Holocaust of the Jews of Greater Hungary, amidst a flurry of activity concerning the lawsuit against the SNCF (French National Railroad) and albeit short-lived, victory in a French court, asked me if we could then embark on a suit against the MAV (Hungarian National Railroad) for its role in the murder of the Jews of Greater Hungary, complicity in murder, aiding and abetting attempted murder and  as it turned out a long time later, the spoliation of the Jews. I approached the Floersheimer Chair in Constitutional Law (Prof. Richard Weisberg) at Cardozo University, who had won great things for survivors and their heirs, from  France, in the matter of spoliation of Jewish assets in banks there during the Holocaust. 

The rest is history. Suit was filed for the first time in 2010 with other colleagues (Pavich Law Group) in the Chicago district court  for the first time in 2010. A class action suit against the railroad, an instrumentality of the Hungarian government in the names of survivors, and second and third generations the world over. Suit enjoyed small disappointments and small victories. Of course, it had to be adapted to American law—within the framework of a role in genocide, to overcome the FSIA (Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act), a stress on financial loss, spoliation.

Of course, MAV was none too pleased. MAV contended that it had the right to bring this case to justice in its own court system. We contended that all survivors who had ever filed anything in Hungary in the way of claims were dissatisfied, displeased and felt to be been brushed over like an annoying hair in the eye, with requests for documents that obviously weren’t available (death certificates from Auschwitz? Birth certificates from cities and villages no longer Hungary (and speaking a variety of some 6 other languages at least), marriage records; a slew of insurmountable barriers especially for those then residing outside of Trianon Hungary. All stated to us, producing in many cases, documentary proof of refusal, that they were exhausted from having to “exhaust” local remedies such as the MAV wished, and to no avail. They cited the suit in Hungary in the first score of 2000, against the OTP bank and the Nemzeti bank, which went as far as the Supreme Court, and was rejected all the way through. They cited Hungarian “justice” as concerned war crimes trials.

Appeals began in 2012. And here we are, 2016, almost June, and we were told  late 2015 that all courts in the US had sided with the Hungarian pleas and we were to try in Hungary first, and perhaps if we were not satisfied, we could come back to Chicago. Needless to say, we ve lost some third of the survivors on the way, and it’s still a long road ahead.

There is no class action in the Hungarian judicial system. We filed a test case with an attorney in Budapest, on Feb. 19 for a claimant from Brooklyn, a survivor, with an excellent memory and an airtight case. Mentioned in the brief are the 153 survivors who were still with us at the time of the filing. To date, all we've heard is a request  for further (exorbitant) fees. The survivors aren t getting any younger. Neither actually are any of us. We re exhausted too. All of us. I was hopeful—I said the MAV would do anything to keep away from the American judicial system.

So MAV, prove me right!

See original Hungarian documents as presented to the court on Feb 19, 2016, with English translation

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