Legal Translation for Holocaust Litigation in U.S. Courts

Suing the Republic of Hungary in U.S. Court

Legal translation services play an important role in Holocaust litigation in U.S. courts, as Holocaust cases often have evidentiary documents written in Hungarian, German, Dutch, Polish, Hebrew, Romanian, Russian, French. Today’s case takes us back to the tragic days of the Holocaust, which also engulfed Hungary. The name of the case is Simon v. Republic of Hungary.

The Hungarian government deported a large portion of Hungary’s Jewish population to the concentration camps at Auschwitz. Very few survived. Fourteen of the survivors filed suit against the Republic of Hungary, as well as Hungary’s state-owned railway company, which was used to transport them to the concentration camps. In the lawsuit the survivors sought compensation for the seizure and expropriation of their property as part of the Hungarian government’s genocidal campaign. Specifically, the survivors alleged that property was seized from them when they were deported to the concentration camps. The survivors, some of them now living in the United States, brought a suit in the United States District Court, District Court of Columbia.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia however, dismissed the case partly on the grounds of forum non conveniens. The Court ruled that a Hungarian forum would be more convenient to resolve these claims. This led to an appeal, after which the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the District Court.

Hungarian to English Translation Not a Hindrance, Rules the Appellate Court

One of the reasons cited by the District Court in reaching its decision was simply, ease. The District Court had denoted that pertinent and extensive records are located in Hungary which would require Hungarian to English translation, if this case was to be heard in the United States. The Court of Appeals disagreed with the reasoning of the District Court. The appellate court noted that while extensive records might be located in Hungary, there are extensive records located in the United States, in the archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

The appellate court was also not satisfied with the District Court’s reasoning on the Hungarian to English translation issues. The court noted that many Holocaust survivors speak English and, therefore, Hungarian to English translations will be required regardless of the forum in which the case is heard. The appellate court did not consider translation of Hungarian documents to English to be an issue at all.

The Court stated that because of “digitization” translation would not be an issue. In other words, the appellate court was basically saying that the pertinent Hungarian documents can be scanned, uploaded to a computer and then sent to the United States to be translated from Hungarian to English. This reasoning is in line with modern day technological trends, where legal translation of documents is routinely done remotely.

Accordingly, the Court of Appeals ruled that the United States would be the appropriate forum to hear this case. This eventually led to another appeal, and the case ended up in the United States Supreme Court which ruled that the United States does not have jurisdiction because foreign states are immune from being sued in the U.S. courts, and none of the exceptions to that general principle apply here. The Supreme Court then remanded the case back to the District Court to determine whether other arguments might warrant bringing this suit in the United States. This case continues to be litigated.

Legal Translation Services in a Modern World

Despite the aforesaid, the appellate court’s reasoning on translation should not be taken lightly, as the appellate court is only second in the judicial hierarchy to the United States Supreme Court. The appellate court’s reasoning on translation is particularly telling as modern technology has made it possible to obtain legal translations of documents located in another country without having to travel to that country. Therefore, the U.S. courts are unlikely to consider such circumstances to be hindrances in moving forward the litigation. Hence, parties should be prepared to have any documents located in foreign countries to be scanned, uploaded digitally and then translated.

Contact legal translation and apostille service All Language Alliance, Inc. to obtain certified translations of legal documents written in Hungarian, German, Dutch, Polish, Hebrew, Romanian, Russian, French, and other foreign languages for Holocaust litigation in the U.S. courts.  Get in touch with us to request a court-certified deposition interpreter in any foreign language for Zoom video depositions and for on-site depositions.

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