Suspended jail term for German lawyer over ghetto payouts

31st March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Michael Witti, who stood out in the German legal fraternity with his headline-grabbing, million-dollar lawsuits based on the Second World War, was convicted of breach of trust in the Munich district court.

Munich -- A Munich lawyer who has spearheaded Holocaust victims' claims against the German authorities and companies has been given a suspended jail term of 11 months for keeping some of the payouts, a German public prosecutor confirmed Sunday.

Michael Witti, who stood out in the German legal fraternity with his headline-grabbing, million-dollar lawsuits based on the Second World War, was convicted of breach of trust in the Munich district court, the weekly news magazine Focus reported earlier Sunday.

It said the penalty was dated March 5.

Focus said Witti had succeeded with claims by 10 elderly Jewish residents of the United States for so-called "ghetto pensions," a new form of compensation for people who were confined by the Nazis to Jewish sections of occupied European cities.

He was prosecuted after failing to pass on the money to clients, Focus said. The total involved was 48,000 euros (74,000 dollars). Focus said Witti remitted the payouts to his clients after the inquiry against him began.

Ghetto pensions are a third form of German government lump-sum benefit for elderly Holocaust survivors, after earlier programs to compensate slave laborers and those press-ganged by the Nazis into low-paid forced labor in factories and on farms.

Work in the ghetto economy was a matter of choice, but miserably paid because of Nazi oppression and did not create any pension rights till Berlin moved under pressure from Jewish groups.

DPA with Expatica

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