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German States Approve Law for Return of Property Siripped from Jews During Nazi Regime

Tens of thousands of German Jews whose property and businesses were stripped from them during the Nazi regime will receive restitution under a law approved today by the German Council of States, comprising the Minister Presidents of the four states in the U.S. occupied zone. The value of the properties to be restored runs into hundreds of millions of dollars.

The measure must be approved by the American Military Government before being promulgated, but such approval is certain since the legislation was adopted at the suggestion, and because of the insistence, of the Military Government officials and the State Department. It has been in the process of drafting and discussion for almost a year.

In making public the law, the German officials pointed out that it might work a hardship on persons who purchased confiscated property in ignorance of its origin. They also said that its enforcement will be hampered until there is uniform legislation throughout Germany. Dr. Hans Ehard, Minister President of Bavaria, said in an accompanying letter that the legislation contains the same loopholes that allowed Nazis to escape de-Nazification by fleeing to another zone. Similar legislation is in effect in the province of Thuringia in the Soviet zone, but no restitution measures have been adopted in the French and British zones.

Under the legislation, which will benefit an estimated 15,000 Jews in the U.S. zone and many thousands more now living in other countries, as well as non-Jewish persecutes, all applications must be filed before Dec. 31, 1948. Where there is a dispute as to ownership, special German tribunals set up along the lines of the de-Nazification tribunals will decide the issues. Persons who try to hide property which they know or suspect was illegally obtained from Jews or other persecutes, or who attempt to flee with such property or make false statements will be subject to five-year prison terms.

The law, which applies to all transactions after Jan. 30, 1933, provides that real or personal property will be returned to the owners or their heirs where-ever possible. Where the property cannot be traced, the German states will make restitution. Present holders of confiscated property or property obtained through fraud, duress or any other illegal means will be forced to surrender it even if they were unaware at the time they obtained it that the property had been taken from persecutes.

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