Alumni in the News In the News

June 27, 2013 at 8:55 am

Washington Post: History Alum Who Exposed Nazi Theft of Jewish Property Dies at 84

William Z. Slany, a top State Department historian who helped oversee a study in the 1990s that exposed Nazi looting of Jewish property and that led to $8 billion in belated compensation for Holocaust victims and their families, died May 13 at his home in Reston. He was 84,” reported the Washington Post.

Slany earned a B.A. in History from Ohio University in 1951. After earning a doctorate in Russian history from Cornell University, he joined the State Department’s Office of the Historian, helping to produce 222 volumes of the Foreign Relations of the United States, “which since 1861 have served as a historical record of U.S. foreign policy decisions,” the Post noted.

Dr. Slany was the State Department’s chief historian from 1982 until his retirement in 2000. He drew the most attention for a massive, two-part study that burrowed into the history of Nazi Germany to expose the methodical theft of Jewish property.

The stolen assets encompassed jewelry and other valuables belonging to victims of the regime’s persecution. The looting was so extreme as to include gold teeth taken from concentration camp victims.

In addition, many European Jews had turned to Swiss banks for safekeeping of their savings during Hitler’s rule. Many of those account holders did not survive the Holocaust. Decades later, questions remained about the status of their assets.

A new wave of interest in the dormant, unclaimed accounts came in 1995, after then-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) launched Senate banking committee hearings after being urged on by the World Jewish Congress.

The next year, President Bill Clinton tapped Stuart E. Eizenstat, an undersecretary of state who had served as a special envoy for property claims in Central and Eastern Europe, to investigate. Eizenstat asked Dr. Slany to help.

As the chief historian and principal author of the reports, Dr. Slany oversaw the declassification of nearly 1 million pages of documentation and the indexing of more than 15 million pages by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Read the entire article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *