CHICAGO (CN) - Families of Hungarian Holocaust victims demand $240 million in "blood money" from the Hungarian national railroad, whose workers allegedly looted the belongings of 437,000 Jews who were killed at Auschwitz, or who died on the way there.
Victims of the Hungarian Holocaust filed its federal class action against the Hungarian State Railways.
The Victims say the lawsuit is the product of 9 years research, done without the cooperation of the Hungarian government. The Hungarian State Railways, aka MAV for its Hungarian acronym, is "a wholly-owned instrumentality of the Hungarian government," according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs say that in 1944, MAV workers forced Jews into boxcars and cattle cars, then looted their family heirlooms, jewelry, money and other valuables from their luggage.
From March to October 1944, Hungarian Jews "were taken out of their homes and apartments and were allowed to keep one suitcase of family valuables," according to the complaint.
The Jews were taken to factories, warehouses, fields and concentration camps, and eventually to MAV's railroad station, ignorant of their fate. The class says that at the station, railway workers told the victims to leave their suitcases in the depot, so they could be loaded into baggage cars.
"The Jews then were loaded into box cars and cattle cars. As soon as the train left the station, railroad employees and their friends leaped upon the piles of suitcases, tearing them open with knives and pliers, and grabbing every valuable item," the complaint states.
"The interior heat of the unventilated cars, coupled with the lack of water to assuage the thirst of the passengers, in fact resulted in many deaths and severe mental impairments. The sick, the elderly, pregnant women, babies and young children were treated with equal brutality by MAV's agents. The trains bound to Auschwitz would be stopped at intervals, allowing railroad employees to remove the dead bodies and the persons who had gone mad. MAV employees had dug ditches in advance to receive the dead bodies and bury them. The persons who showed signs of mental illness were led to the edge of the ditches and then shot by MAV employees," the complaint states.
The class claims that MAV was aware of what it was doing, "using nearly all of its trains day and night to transport people one-way to Auschwitz," where they were killed with poison gas.
The victims says that the Hungarian genocide was the "most heinous violation of international law," and the "most brutal of all the Nazi genocides of World War II," but the families of the victims, and those who survived, have not received even 1 percent of what they lost, in reparations.
"Even though discussion of money is necessarily crass in the context of the unspeakable evil that was inflicted upon the Holocaust victims, nevertheless the law is powerless to do anything other than to obtain financial restitution," the complaint states.
The plaintiffs seek $240 million in restitution and $1 billion in punitive damages.
Their lead counsel is Anthony D'Amato, a law professor at Northwestern University.