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Son sues Auschwitz for father's suitcase
Times Online ^ | August 12, 2006 | Charles Bremner and Roger Boyes

Posted on 08/12/2006 8:13:05 AM PDT by lizol

Son sues Auschwitz for father's suitcase

By Charles Bremner and Roger Boyes

Victim's bag was spotted after museum lent it to an exhibition in Paris

SADNESS tinged the voice of Michel Levi-Leleu, a retired French engineer, as he explained why he was locked in a legal battle with the former Auschwitz death camp over a long-lost suitcase and the memory of his father. “I don’t understand the attitude of Auschwitz. I would have thought that they would have come out of this bigger if they had themselves suggested that the case stay in France,” said M Levi-Leleu as he concluded his tale.

At the heart of the dispute now before a Paris court is a battered brown valise that Pierre Levi, 44, a Paris diamond broker, was carrying when French police arrested him at Avignon railway station in April 1943. Having been in hiding as a farm labourer, he was on his way to Savoy to visit his wife and their children, five-year-old Michel and his brother Etienne. Unlike his family, Levi had not changed his name to the French-sounding Leleu.

Levi took the case with him when he was shipped to the Nazi camp in Poland, one of several from which he and more than 70,000 other French deportees never returned. Nothing more was heard of him until February last year, when his son found the valise in the display at the new Memorial to the Shoah in Paris. It had been lent by the Auschwitz museum from a small collection of victims’ luggage. The son had never been to Auschwitz.

“My daughter saw the showcase with the suitcase with my father’s name on it. She was paying more attention. For me there were too many things that I couldn’t bear to look at,” said M Levi-Leleu, a trim divorcé and grandfather.

Talking at his Provençal holiday home in the Drôme departement, 30 miles (48km) from Avignon, M Levi-Leleu said that, with the support of the French memorial, he had asked Auschwitz if the case could remain in France. “The case would stay in France as the property of Auschwitz but it would stay in France as powerful symbolic testimony. I’m not asking that they give it back to me and I’ll put it in a cupboard. I want it to be seen by the people who visit the memorial.”

Auschwitz refused, for fear of creating a precedent. Support from French Jewish and political leaders failed to persuade the Polish authorities, so M Levi-Leleu sued in a Paris court for the restitution of his property. The suitcase will remain in Paris during the hearing. Jacques Fredj, director of the Paris memorial, said that Auschwitz told him “that if all families wanted to recover belongings, there would be no end to it”.

Because the Polish museum had a permanent loan in Washington, he advised M Levi- Leleu to go to court.

In Auschwitz, Teresa Swiebocka, deputy director of the museum, said: “It is one of only a few suitcases in our collection which was individually labelled and which clearly came to the Auschwitz camp together with a person deported from France.” The Polish Government is backing Auschwitz.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: auschwitz; france; holocaust; jewish; jews; poland

1 posted on 08/12/2006 8:13:08 AM PDT by lizol
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To: lizol
Jacques Fredj, director of the Paris memorial, said that Auschwitz told him “that if all families wanted to recover belongings, there would be no end to it”.

This quote bears repeating...

2 posted on 08/12/2006 8:17:50 AM PDT by trashcanbred (Anti-social and anti-socialist)
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To: lizol

Doesn't sound like this person has ever been to Auschwitz to see the displays, does it?

Were he to walk through the "Death Gate" would he have the same attitude?? Or would he want his father's valise to remain there as part of the display.

I am sure the Gestapo disposed of all the precious diamonds in it. That's what they did with all valuables.


3 posted on 08/12/2006 8:18:21 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: trashcanbred

Yup. Property law is a *itch.


4 posted on 08/12/2006 8:19:27 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: lizol
This is stolen property, taken from a murdered family. If I was in that position, I'd sue too. Not for money but to assert a moral claim. The lives that were lost can never be restored to that family. But justice can still be done six decades later.

(Go Israel, Go! Slap 'Em Down Hezbullies.)

5 posted on 08/12/2006 8:23:06 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: Salvation

He, or an heir, may donate the valise back to this museum or another. It is his right to do so, just as it is his right not to . . . .


6 posted on 08/12/2006 8:25:24 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: lizol; All

I think it far more appropriate for the Jews of the world to sue Poland for the countless billions of dollars worth of property that was stolen from the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.

The fact that the vast majority of Jews were murdered and consequently there is no one left to claim the property is certainly no excuse. If, God forbid, your entire family was murdered and all their property was stolen, I wouldn't imagine you would be too happy in the afterlife knowing that their property remains in the hands of those who collaborated in their murder.

There will now follow umpteen posts by individuals who will deny a historical truth that has been documented countless thousands of times by both Jews and non-Jews, Poles and non-Poles.


7 posted on 08/12/2006 8:28:06 AM PDT by Basel2005
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To: trashcanbred
if all families wanted to recover belongings, there would be no end to it

] Not much of a legal argument. "Because WE want it" is usually used by dictatorships and communist governments.

8 posted on 08/12/2006 8:29:33 AM PDT by freedumb2003 (The Democrat Party stands for open treason in a time of war.)
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To: goldstategop

I agree. However, I never cease to be amazed that Poles have such an endless fascination with Jews. After all, Poland is now a vast Jewish graveyard and they are at last rid of us. Why this endless speculation about Jewish affairs?


9 posted on 08/12/2006 8:31:14 AM PDT by Basel2005
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To: Basel2005

"There will now follow umpteen posts by individuals who will deny a historical truth that has been documented countless thousands of times by both Jews and non-Jews, Poles and non-Poles.
"

Probably not. The Holocaust Deniers that hang around Free Republic usually keep sorta quiet about it. They don't last long here, otherwise.


10 posted on 08/12/2006 8:31:18 AM PDT by MineralMan (non-evangelical atheist)
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To: Basel2005
Legal definition of standing.
11 posted on 08/12/2006 8:31:29 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: lizol

How much money does Poland make from tourism related to Auschwitz? Are there fees to visit Auschwitz? If so, where does the money go?


12 posted on 08/12/2006 8:38:24 AM PDT by pieceofthepuzzle
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To: freedumb2003
Because WE want it

Most governments' claims. AND, at the risk of being "set straight," isn't this the attitude of our own Smithsonian?

13 posted on 08/12/2006 8:43:09 AM PDT by bannie (HILLARY: Not all perversions are sexual.)
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To: Basel2005

Who - in your opinion - should be entitled to act against Poland in the name of those perished Jews?


14 posted on 08/12/2006 8:47:18 AM PDT by lizol (Liberal - a man with his mind open ... at both ends)
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To: Basel2005

BTW - another Poland hater?


15 posted on 08/12/2006 8:48:29 AM PDT by lizol (Liberal - a man with his mind open ... at both ends)
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To: Basel2005
Why this endless speculation about Jewish affairs?

Since when Times is a Polish newspaper
16 posted on 08/12/2006 8:49:48 AM PDT by lizol (Liberal - a man with his mind open ... at both ends)
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To: pieceofthepuzzle
Admission to the grounds of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial is free of charge

Wanted to make some joint venture? Sorry to disappoint you,
17 posted on 08/12/2006 8:52:40 AM PDT by lizol (Liberal - a man with his mind open ... at both ends)
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To: Basel2005

You wrote:

"I think it far more appropriate for the Jews of the world to sue Poland for the countless billions of dollars worth of property that was stolen from the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust."

Why? Poland didn't get that property. The Nazis did. You do realize that the Nazis engineered the holocaust and not the Poles who lost millions of their own citizens to it right? Yes, after the war Poles bought the houses and land of former, then deceased owners. What else could really be done?

Man, I hope you do realize that at least.

"I wouldn't imagine you would be too happy in the afterlife knowing that their property remains in the hands of those who collaborated in their murder."

Poles collaborating with the Nazis in the Holocaust? Very, very few. And you think the polish government or the Auschwitz Museum cooperated with the Nazis? Are you drinking already this morning?

"There will now follow umpteen posts by individuals who will deny a historical truth that has been documented countless thousands of times by both Jews and non-Jews, Poles and non-Poles."


18 posted on 08/12/2006 9:01:55 AM PDT by vladimir998 (Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. St. Jerome)
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To: 1rudeboy

I hope he gets it back and does put it away in his cupboard.


19 posted on 08/12/2006 9:04:00 AM PDT by FreeManWhoCan (**An American in Miami**)
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To: pieceofthepuzzle

pieceofthepuzzle,

You could also ask:

How much money do Holocaust victims make from tourism related to the Holocaust Museums around the world? Are there fees to visit them? If so, where does the money go?


20 posted on 08/12/2006 9:04:13 AM PDT by vladimir998 (Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. St. Jerome)
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To: FreeManWhoCan

It is his to take home the way I look at it. I also hope, however, he realizes that it might serve more of a purpose in a museum on display. Really I think he should talk to the museum about adding to the display things about his father and his family. Wouldn't that make even more sense?


21 posted on 08/12/2006 9:06:25 AM PDT by vladimir998 (Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. St. Jerome)
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To: Salvation

It would have been his valise by inheritance. Auschwitz should take a bunch of pictures of it and give it back to him as sole survivor of the family.


22 posted on 08/12/2006 9:08:25 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: Salvation

You don't REALLY think this has ANYTHING to do with diamonds, I hope. Of course there are no diamonds.


23 posted on 08/12/2006 9:11:00 AM PDT by Hildy (To save us both time, assume I know everything...)
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To: lizol
It wasn't an anti-Poland comment. I grew up in Chicago, and have deep, deep respect for the integrity of the many first and second generation Poles I met there. I've never been to Poland, never been to Auschwitz, and was just trying to understand the reasons why relinquishing this particular piece of luggage is such an issue that it has generated international attention, which it has.

I don't think it's illegitimate for the Auschwitz museum, or the Polish government to want to avoid losing what are now precious historical artifacts. But I do think that if money is generated, which it certainly is from tourism, then some of that money should be used to maintain the memorial and potentially to promote education about anti-semitism. It probably is. I'm sorry if the post was offensive.
24 posted on 08/12/2006 9:30:12 AM PDT by pieceofthepuzzle
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To: pieceofthepuzzle
How much money does Poland make from tourism related to Auschwitz? Are there fees to visit Auschwitz? If so, where does the money go?

Do you suggest that they should destroy the camp?

25 posted on 08/12/2006 9:42:53 AM PDT by Lukasz
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To: Basel2005
I agree. However, I never cease to be amazed that Poles have such an endless fascination with Jews. After all, Poland is now a vast Jewish graveyard and they are at last rid of us. Why this endless speculation about Jewish affairs?

The Poles themselves not, government a bit because they don’t want to be labeled “anti-Semitic” by world’s Jewry.

26 posted on 08/12/2006 9:47:54 AM PDT by Lukasz
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To: bannie
Most governments' claims.

Most western governments recogize an "illegal taking" at the very least compensate the takee. Are you saying this provate institution has some sort of eminent domain claim?

AND, at the risk of being "set straight," isn't this the attitude of our own Smithsonian?

Let me set you straight: Everything in the Smithsonian was donated by its legal owners.

27 posted on 08/12/2006 9:57:17 AM PDT by freedumb2003 (The Democrat Party stands for open treason in a time of war.)
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To: pieceofthepuzzle

"How much money does Poland make from tourism related to Auschwitz?"

~11.7% of GDP.


28 posted on 08/12/2006 10:27:40 AM PDT by Grzegorz 246
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To: Basel2005

My grandfather said that they had been making sausage out of Jews.


29 posted on 08/12/2006 10:35:51 AM PDT by Grzegorz 246
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To: pieceofthepuzzle
OK, I misunderstood you, especially, that your post was close to post # 7, which was offensive without any doubts.
30 posted on 08/12/2006 11:16:59 AM PDT by lizol (Liberal - a man with his mind open ... at both ends)
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To: Salvation
Or would he want his father's valise to remain there as part of the display.

Read the article, that is what he wanted, but he wanted it to remain in France as part of the display.

He was denied that, so he went to plan B, recover it for himself and his family. He deserves to win this case.

31 posted on 08/12/2006 12:13:40 PM PDT by Balding_Eagle (God has blessed Republicans political enemies who are going senile.)
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To: freedumb2003
Are you saying this provate institution has some sort of eminent domain claim?

I'm thinking that some private citizen found the items in the sea and sold them.

As I said, I'm torn 'tween both sides on this issue.

32 posted on 08/12/2006 4:28:26 PM PDT by bannie (HILLARY: Not all perversions are sexual.)
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To: Basel2005
Poles love the idea of Judaism, they just hate Jews. When I lived there, it was utterly surreal- kosher food shops and judaica stores galore, with nary a Jew in sight. Just how they like it- it's like fetishism. When I lived in Gliwice, I used to put on a kippah on Friday night and stroll downtown to freak out the normals. :) Then again, I also so some stuff that didn't make me a happy camper, such as this
33 posted on 08/14/2006 1:31:11 PM PDT by youngandgungho (If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything)
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