Analysis & Opinions - Lawfare

When Forgiveness Is Impossible: How Atonement Works as Policy

  • Kathrin Bachleitner
| Aug. 27, 2023

In 1952, West Germany and Israel signed the Reparations Agreement between Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany, which became known as the Luxembourg Agreement. Prior to its conclusion, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer gave an official apology for “unspeakable crimes” that called for “moral and material indemnity.” The agreement committed West Germany to paying the state of Israel 3 billion deutschmarks (around $714 million at the time, equivalent to more than $8 billion today) over 14 years. The Luxembourg Agreement’s combination of an official apology and material compensation remains unique to this day. However, it doesn’t have to remain that way. Reviewing what made West Germany select this path shows how atonement could become a reality for other states that have committed severe human rights abuses.

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For Academic Citation:

Kathrin Bachleitner, “When Forgiveness Is Impossible: How Atonement Works as Policy,” Lawfare, August 27, 2023, 

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