Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Europe: Property stolen during the Holocaust made some communities richer, even 70 years later

Via The Washington Post (Evgeny Finkel and Volha Charnysh):

(...) Our research examines how communities were affected by property transfers during the Holocaust, one of the largest and best-documented cases of mass violence and plunder. During this time, some non-Jewish Europeans took over the homes, businesses and other property of the Nazis’ victims. 
We study the effects of plunder at the Treblinka death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, where 850,000 to 900,000 Jews were murdered between 1942 and 1943. Believing Nazi assurances that they were sent to perform agricultural labor in Ukraine, many Jews took valuables with them. After they were gassed, their property — jewelry, golden dental work, money, clothing, tools and even hair — was collected, sorted and sent to Germany.  
At Treblinka, plunder occurred at a gargantuan scale: the camp’s Nazi commandant Franz Stangl spoke of stepping “knee-deep into money” and “wad[ing] in notes, currency, precious stones, jewelry, clothes.” 
Even though the Nazis worked hard to secure all the loot, some Jewish valuables ended up in the hands of the local population. At first, some locals traded with the camp guards, who amassed considerable wealth and paid “without even counting the bills.” When the camp closed in October 1943, some people began digging through graves at the camp site to find valuables missed by the Nazis. 
In accounts from the area, observers often described the scene with terms like “Eldorado,” “Klondike,” and “gold rush.”
How did this change local communities? (...) 
We found that proximity to Treblinka is associated with newer and better housing stock. The closer to the death camp, the higher the share of homes built in the post-World War II period and of roofs made of sheet metal, a more expensive material than other roof options, as measured by the 1988 Census. For example, in communities within 15 km of Treblinka, 45 percent of dwellings on average had metal roofs; in communities 16-35 km away, that was 38 percent of dwellings; and in communities 35-50 km away, just 25 percent. All these communities were economically similar before the war, and wartime destruction cannot explain these patterns. 
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