In This Review

Imperfect Justice: Looted Assets, Slave Labor, and the Unfinished Business of World War II
Imperfect Justice: Looted Assets, Slave Labor, and the Unfinished Business of World War II
By Stuart E. Eisenstat
Public Affairs, 2003, 400 pp.

Eisenstat's account of his mission to negotiate compensation from European countries for the "looted assets, slave labor," and other misfortunes (such as unpaid insurance policies) that befell Jews in Europe during World War II has created a furor because of its cover: gold ingots assembled in the form of a swastika against a white cross background. If anything, the content of the book is far more explosive. It is a detailed, often blunt report of contentious diplomacy involving not only the notoriously resistant banks and government of Switzerland, but also other countries whose desire to provide justice on Eisenstat's terms was less than forthcoming -- including Germany on the issue of slave labor; Austria, used to seeing itself as a victim of, not a partner in, Nazism; and France, whose legal culture is very different from that of the United States. What gives Eisenstat's story its strength is his undiplomatic but talented set of portraits of all the people involved. What emerges most clearly from Imperfect Justice is the determination and commitment of the author.