The heirs to Jewish assets the Nazis seized during World War II filed a lawsuit
against the Claims Conference on Sunday, saying it is withholding NIS 2.5
million raised from the sale of their properties.
The plaintiffs, of the
Lichtenstein and Engel families, accused the Jewish organization – which is
charged with negotiating with Germany on behalf of Holocaust victims – of
“maliciously” taking hold of Jewish assets in East Germany even when the heirs
are living and able to be located.
“The Claims Conference and its
representatives failed to take the most elementary actions and that creates
great concern as to its good faith,” the complaint stated. “The Claims
Conference did not try to locate the heirs, nor to return to the heirs of the
Lichtenstein and Engel families what was appropriated from them during the
The Claims Conference, whose full name is the Claims
Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, said on Monday it was
unaware of the lawsuit filed in the Tel Aviv District Court until it was
contacted by The Jerusalem Post
for a response.
“We have yet to receive a
statement of claim from the claimants in question,” it said.
very surprised to hear that they approached the media before having presented
the statement of claim to the Claims Conference. Only once we receive and study
the claim will we be able to issue a response.”
The process of issuing
restitution for Jewish real estate in the former East Germany has been complex
and sometimes controversial.
After the unification of East and West
Germany in 1990, the united German government enabled Jews who owned property in
the formally communist part of the country – that was seized or sold under
coercion during the Nazi regime – to claim restitution or seek just compensation
for their assets. Thousands filed claims before the December 31, 1992 deadline,
but many others did not. The Claims Conference extended another deadline for
Jewish claimants until 2004.
The claimants in the joint lawsuit said they
only recently discovered they were heirs to property in Berlin and other German
cities. They maintain they deserve compensation even though they missed the
deadlines, which they say were arbitrary.
The Claims Conference said it
did everything in its capacity to locate Jewish owners and heirs of property in
East Germany, including publishing media ads for years before the last deadline
passed. The organization said reallocation of funds already earmarked to help
aging Holocaust survivors could tie up many millions of dollars, denying them
much-needed financial aid.
The claimants asserted that the 2004 deadline
cut short another path by which they could have sought compensation until 2022.