German officials back Jewish property claim

25th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

25 August 2006, BERLIN - German federal officials on Friday confirmed the rights of Jewish heirs to property in downtown Berlin seized by the Nazis and now worth at least 145 million euros (185 million dollars). The Federal Agency for Unresolved Property Questions has ruled the heirs of the Wertheim retail dynasty - who were driven out of Germany by the Nazis in the 1930s - can reclaim the property via the Jewish Claims Conference. The claim involves 20,000 square metres of prime real estate on Berlin's pr

25 August 2006

BERLIN - German federal officials on Friday confirmed the rights of Jewish heirs to property in downtown Berlin seized by the Nazis and now worth at least 145 million euros (185 million dollars).

The Federal Agency for Unresolved Property Questions has ruled the heirs of the Wertheim retail dynasty - who were driven out of Germany by the Nazis in the 1930s - can reclaim the property via the Jewish Claims Conference.

The claim involves 20,000 square metres of prime real estate on Berlin's prestigious Potsdamer Platz which is also claimed by the struggling department store and mail order giant KarstadtQuelle AG.

Located at what used to be the Berlin Wall, the property was given for free by the city government of Berlin to the KarstadtQuelle forerunner Hertie in the early 1990s.

Hertie then sold the land to Otto Beisheim, the wealthy owner of the Metro wholesale concern, for 145 million euros in 2000. Beisheim has since built a luxury Ritz-Carlton Hotel on the property.

But the ruling by the Federal Agency for Unresolved Property Questions - obtained by Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa - shows that KarstadtQuelle was not the legal owner of the property at the time it was sold to Beisheim.

A lawyer for the Wertheim heirs, Matthias Druba, called on KarstadtQuelle CEO Thomas Middelhoff to accept the ruling and not to begin any further lawsuits over the property.

KarstadtQuelle should pay at least the 145 million euros they received for the property, said Druba.

"I hope that (Middelhof) is not going to stand in the way of restitution for Nazi injustice," he said.

But Middelhoff replied the company would indeed be taking legal action to prevent paying the money and expected there would be no final decision for years.

"We won't pay a penny and assume that we will not have to," said KarstadtQuelle spokesman Joerg Howe.

DPA

Subject: German news

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