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NEW YORK, N.Y.: October 27, 2022—Gideon Taylor, President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), announced today the opening of a new film, Reckonings: The First Reparations. Funded by the German government with support provided by the Claims Conference and recently accepted for the United Nations Annual Film Festival, the film is directed by award-winning filmmaker, Roberta Grossman. The film tells the story of how global Jewry achieved the first and only reparations ever paid by a state to those persecuted. The opening, at the Paley Center in New York City will feature a panel moderated by Rebecca Jarvis, Chief Business, Tech & Economics Correspondent, ABC News and a discussion on the first time in history that compensations were paid to individuals and not government to government.
Gideon Taylor, President of the Claims Conference, said, “Capturing the incredible history of these agreements is critical to the story of the Holocaust. The hardship of survivors did not stop when World War II was declared over. The Jewish world continued to fight for what was taken from them and negotiated to ensure those critical pieces of their lives that could not be restored would at least receive symbolic reparations. We are incredibly proud of this film that tells the harrowing story of those negotiations.”
Set in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the film chronicles the daunting process of negotiating indemnification for the Jewish people with Germany. These first negotiations took place at a time when tensions were still extraordinarily high and each agreement was its own complicated milestone to what would ultimately lay the foundation for the reparations that are—to this day—negotiated, expanded, and distributed to Holocaust survivors around the world every year.
Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of the Claims Conference, said, “The work done by these leaders from both the Jewish and German people created the blueprint for the first-ever indemnification in history. There was nothing to base it on, no one had ever done this or negotiated this level of compensation—and all of this was done as the world was still learning about the atrocities of the Holocaust.”
The film, which provides a first-ever inside look at Holocaust reparations, features Jewish and German leaders risking their lives by meeting in secret under threats of death. It captures the anger, shame, and anguish experienced by the various parties as talks broke down and failure seemed imminent. From the halls of power in Bonn, West Germany, where fierce debate raged over how to pay wartime debts; to violent protests in the streets of Jerusalem, where a public infuriated by the thought of bargaining with Germany stormed the Knesset; to meetings with Jewish organizations from around the world, viewers are shown the complexities faced by the various sides in negotiating for compensation.
Director and Producer Roberta Grossman stated, “I am honored to help bring to life this story which illustrates that the path to democracy, to peace, and to reconciliation, no matter how devastating the conflict or awful the injustice perpetrated on individuals and groups of people, is a truthful and factual account of what has occurred, a real acceptance of responsibility on the part of the perpetrator, and a sincere apology from the perpetrator expressed both in words and in terms of some kind of reparations.”
Ben Ferencz, prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials that followed World War II, said, “I’m honored to be in a film that recognizes the dangers, complexities, and tribulations that went into the first-ever compensation. At the time, we were just trying to do what was right. Looking back, I can see that it was this work, the legal work of negotiating agreements and finding justice, that led to peace. It is the indemnification that allowed both Israel and Germany to find a peaceful path forward and rebuild themselves on the world stage.”
Maureen Reidy, The Paley Center’s President and CEO, “The Paley Center continues our work to shine a light on media’s powerful shaping influence in combating the alarming rise of antisemitism with the next installment in our quarterly series, the U.S. premiere of Reckonings: The First Reparations at The Paley Museum. The Paley Center is proud to convene some of the most respected and leading voices to educate audiences on the dangers of antisemitism and thank Shari Redstone and Aryeh and Elana Bourkoff for their continued generous support of this ongoing series and the Claims Conference for their sponsorship and support of this event.”
The event at the Paley Center, moderated by Rebecca Jarvis, featured Director and Producer Roberta Grossman; Claims Conference Executive Vice President, Greg Schneider; Holocaust survivor, member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, Abe Foxman; and historian and author Michael Berenbaum. The event in partnership with the Paley Center was made possible by generous support from Shari Redstone, Aryeh and Elana Bourkoff and is part of a quarterly series at The Paley Center for Media designed to combat antisemitism.
For more information about the film: https://www.claimscon.org/reckonings/