Rectification of Racial Discrimination during WWII: the Case of Restitution Laws in Serbia

Restitution for the mostly Jewish property and assets that were confiscated by the Nazis during World War II (WWII) in various European states has been a highly debated issue ever since the end of the war. Countries that adhered to the ideas of communism and nationalisation of property in the immediate aftermath of the war failed to address this issue until very recently. Serbia, too, has only began to consider remedying the incredible damage done to its rather small Jewish community. More specifically, in the past decade, Serbia has been trying to repair the damage by passing a series of restitution laws which eventually led to separate legislation on heirless property. This paper explores the substance and application of these laws, as well as the history of discrimination based on which the Serbian Jewish community was persecuted by German occupiers and their collaborators. In doing so, through the lens of Critical Race Theory (CRT), this paper identifies another group that has been persecuted on the basis of race, namely the Romani. What follows from such research is the following: firstly, the law allowed for discrimination on a racial basis of both Jews and Roma during WWII and, secondly, the law is now remedying the damages caused towards the former group, but not the latter. In conclusion, this paper suggests that such a distinction is made due to a possible interest convergence, as defined by CRT.

Maja Davidović

Maja Davidović

Maja Davidović is a graduate student of Human Rights and International Justice at Central European University. Her current research is on reparations, particularly focusing on gender and reparations in enforced disappearances cases. Maja has also written on international criminal justice, transitional justice and women's rights in former Yugoslavia and Central America, and has been involved with several NGOs in the Balkans as a researcher, mostly working with children's rights-related issues.

1. How was racial discrimination manifested during the German occupation of Serbia 1941-1945?
2. In which ways have Serbian laws disadvantaged the Roma community? Have the same laws singled out a specific group and, if yes, how has this group benefited from such legislation?
3. What is the Critical Race Theory angle that this article brings to the discussion?
4. Can you think of other examples of how race plays a role is law and policies in former Yugoslav republics?

Derrick A. Bell Jr., 'The Space Traders' in Derrick Bell, Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism (Basic Books 1992) pp. 158-194.
Ian Hancock, We are the Romani People (University of Hertfordshire Press 2002)
Mathias Moschel, Law, Lawyers and Race. Critical Race Theory from the United States to Europe (Routledge 2014)
Ronald W. Zweig, German Reparations and the Jewish World (Frank Cass 2001)


Southeastern Europe