US taps Eizenstat to return to government Holocaust advisory post

Veteran diplomat will resume role he held during the Trump and Obama administrations

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Stuart E. Eizenstat, the chief negotiator of the Jewish Claims Conference, walks through the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin in 2011. (Markus Schreiber/AP)
Stuart E. Eizenstat, the chief negotiator of the Jewish Claims Conference, walks through the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin in 2011. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

The US State Department has tapped Stuart Eizenstat to return to the role of special adviser on Holocaust issues, it announced on Monday.

Eizenstat, an attorney and veteran US diplomat, previously held the same post in the Trump and Obama administrations. Prior to that, he served as deputy Treasury secretary and ambassador to the European Union under president Bill Clinton as well as an adviser to president Jimmy Carter.

“Ambassador Eizenstat brings with him extensive experience in resolving Holocaust claims and related disputes,” the State Department said on Monday. In his past roles, “he negotiated landmark agreements with the Swiss, Germans, Austrians, French, and others covering the restitution of property, compensation payments to slave and forced laborers, recovery of looted art and bank accounts, and payment of insurance policies.”

In his role, “Eizenstat’s principal task will be to offer policy advice on contemporary Holocaust-related matters,” the State Department said, working in “close coordination” with Ellen Germain, the special envoy for Holocaust issues, as well as other relevant government bodies.

Eizenstat’s name was previously circulating among the potential contenders to serve as the US antisemitism envoy, a job that ultimately went to prominent Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt.

In a Times of Israel blog post about Holocaust Remembrance Day earlier this year, Eizenstat wrote that he never discussed the Holocaust while growing up.

Stuart Eizenstat, special advisor to the US secretary of state on Holocaust issues, poses for a photograph during an International Conference on Welfare for Holocaust Survivors in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, May 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

“I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia in a home suffused with Judaism, with a father and two uncles who served in the military, but the Holocaust was never discussed and I never met a survivor,” he wrote.

He wrote that he did not fully understand the Holocaust and the US’s failure to act to prevent it until after he was already working in Washington.

“I pledged to myself if ever given the chance in the US government to remove this cloud from the World War II history of the US whose brave soldiers helped win the war, but whose government did so little to save the Jews,” Eizenstat wrote.

“The need to preserve memory is what led me to recommend to President Carter in April 1978, a Presidential Commission on the Holocaust chaired by Elie Wiesel, which in turn proposed the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Since it opened in 1993, there have been 50 million visitors, some 90% non-Jews.”

“But education about what happened in the Shoah is not enough,” he added. “On this Yom HaShoah, we must pledge to learn the lessons from the Holocaust in our own actions in the 21st century.”

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