The New York Times arts section has a story today about how Holocaust restitution authorities paid out $225,000 to an American family claiming a relation to the famed Hungarian Jewish playwright, Ferenc Molnar, and his wife, the actress Lili Darvas. The story was first reported last week in The Forward (the Times properly attributes this).
Molnar and Darvas survived the Holocaust, having fled Europe for the United States, but apparently left behind accounts in Switzerland; Elizabeth Rhodes of San Diego claimed the money on behalf of her family with an application based on little more than a family rumor that her great-grandfather, Sandor von Molnar, was a half-brother to the playwright.
It turns out, however, that Molnar has direct descendants, in Hungary and the United States. One of these, Gabor Lukin of Los Angeles, filed a claim — only to find that the money had been disbursed and, Rhodes claims, spent. Part of the money paid for her father Peter von Molnar’s trip to Israel; her father is an Episcopal priest who, she says, nonetheless sustains an emotional tie to his Jewish past.
The interesting thing about this story is that a cottage industry persists, in courts and in legislative bodies, based on the perception that the standards for claiming Holocaust-era property are, if anything, too strict. In this case, the standards seemed much too loose.