Freie Universität Berlin

Service Navigation

Claire Greenstein, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Political Science

The Motivations Behind Domestic Reparations Programs

Since 1945, governments have repeatedly promised to pay reparations to their citizens as redress for state-sponsored human rights abuses. In fact, the UN has made such internal reparations legally mandatory for governments that have violated their citizens’ human rights. However, many perpetrator countries remain noncompliant, and some countries that have promised reparations have never disbursed any money to victims. Despite the global scope of this issue, no one has researched why some countries promise reparations when others do not, and no one knows what causes some countries to fulfill their reparations promises while others make only partial reparations payments or refuse to pay at all. My research addresses these two unknowns. I hypothesize that, firstly, governments promise reparations due to international pressure. Secondly, the size and scope of reparations payments depends on the extent of the pro-reparations pressure that domestic civil society can place on the government. In order to test my theory, I examine three separate cases in which German citizens were eligible for reparations payments: that of the Jews after the Holocaust, the Roma and Sinti after the Holocaust, and former East German political prisoners. Through these three case studies, I endeavor to uncover how international pressure and civil society affect reparations promises and payments.