22 January 2004
STRASBOURG – The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ruled against the controversial seizure by the German state of property from east Germans following the 1990 unification.
The court said taking lands awarded to refugees and farmers in former east Germany after 1945 was a violation of property rights in the European Human Rights Convention.
Property, which was awarded to German nationals who fled from eastern Europe after World War II, was claimed by the German state in 1992. No compensation was paid.
The ruling could prove expensive for the financially strapped German government: land was taken away 70,000 eastern Germans and much has since been sold off.
A further court ruling is due on the seizure of larger properties in eastern Germany by communist authorities between 1945 and 1949.
These include aristocratic estates, major industries and banks.
Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s government refused to return these properties to the old owners after unification and the state has since privatized most of them and kept the proceeds.
Kohl’s justification given for this move was that the former Soviet Union had made non-return of these lands a condition for allowing German unification to go ahead.
But this was subsequently denied by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Subject: German news