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Property stolen during the Nazi terror must be returned
By DAVID ROWLAND
01/29/2014
As the largest representative of claimants who have not yet received their property from the Claims Conference, we (Claimants Representative Committee, CRC) have read your above article with interest.
 
However, there are several important facts which your article does not address.

First, we have nothing against the Claims Conference, and in fact laud their charitable purposes. However we do not agree that the Claims Conference should or in fact has the legal or moral right to use the property of the heirs of Nazi victims to fund their charitable purposes. This property rightfully belongs to the Nazi victims and their heirs. It never belonged the Claims Conference at the time it was stolen from our clients and the mere fact that the German government let the Claims Conference claim it does not change the fact that this property still belongs to the Nazi victims who lost it, and to their heirs.

Second, it is the responsibility of the German government pay for home care for Nazi victims and this is not the responsibility of the heirs of the Nazi victims who lost this property. It is a moral outrage and a scandal of the highest magnitude that the Claims Conference refuses to return property lost due to Nazi persecution to the heirs of the Nazi victims who lost it.

The German government has no right to illegally and unconstitutionally take away the property of the heirs of Nazi victims and give it to an organization which refuses to return it to its true owners. So, there are two parties which are responsible for this outrage, the Claims Conference and the German government. Ultimately, they both bear joint responsibility and liability for illegally taking property from the families of the victims who lost it in the most horrible way due to Nazi persecution.

Third, recently, in April 2013, the German government agreed to give $1 billion to the Claims Conference for its home-care programs until the year 2017, and it is to be anticipated that after 2017, the German government will continue to fund the Claims Conference’s home-care program. Given this situation, there is no reason why the Claims Conference cannot fairly and adequately return this property to the heirs of the victims who lost it.

Fourth, regardless of the legal situation, we think that the German government made a mistake when it gave this property to the Claims Conference.

Instead, it should have set up a trust which had the right to claim this property and the duty to then find the Nazi victims or their heirs and return this property to its true owners. To give this property to a third party, that refuses to return it to the heirs of the Nazi victims who lost it, was an illegal and unconstitutional taking of property for which the German government bears responsibility.

Either the Claims Conference is a trustee for the heirs of the victims who lost this property and owes them a fiduciary duty to return it to them, or the German government illegally gave this property to a third party which refuses to return it to its true owners.

Finally, we see only one solution to this problem: property stolen during the Nazi terror must be returned to the families who lost it. The Claims Conference is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and the German government is sitting on its hands watching them do it. Both of them are responsible and both of them need to step up to the plate and resolve this reprehensible situation.

The author is writing on behalf of the Claimants Representative Committee
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