Restitution and Negotiating Historical Injustices
by Elazar Barkan
How do nations and aggrieved parties, in the wake of heinous crimes and horrible injustices, make amends in a positive way to acknowledge wrong-doings and redefine future interactions? How does the growing practice of making restitution restore a sense of morality and enhance prospects for world peace? Where has restitution worked and where has it not?
Since the end of World War II, the victims of historical injustices and crimes against humanity have increasingly turned to restitution, financial and otherwise, as a means of remedying past suffering. In The Guilt of Nations, Elazar Barkan offers a sweeping look at the idea of restitution and its impact on the concept of human rights and the practice of both national and international politics. Through in-depth explorations of reparation demands for a wide variety of past wrongs -- the Holocaust; Japanese enslavement of "comfort women" in Korea and the Philippines; the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor; German art in Russian museums and Nazi gold in Swiss banks; the oppression of indigenous peoples in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. mainland, and Hawaii; and the enduring legacy of slavery and institutional racism among African Americans -- Barkan confronts the difficulties in determining victims and assigning blame in the aftermath of such events, understanding what might justly be restored through restitutions, and assessing how these morally and politically charged acknowledgments of guilt can redefine national histories and identities.