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U.S. Court’s Decision Challenges Legality of Nazi Govt. Actions

A decision of the United States Court of Appeals was today described as establishing the legal principle that the acts of the Nazi government are not entitled to the respect granted legitimate governments.

The decision gave Arnold Bernstein, an American citizen, permission to introduce in court evidence of Nazi duress to force him to sell the franchise to a shipping line and two vessels operated by that line. The decision clears the way for a suit by Mr. Bernstein against the Holland-America Line for $7,000,000. Mr. Bernstein contends that he was in a Nazi prison camp in 1938 when he was forced to part with the franchise of the Red Star Line and two ships, all of which were sold to the Holland-America Line. He was a German citizen at the time of his imprisonment.

The suit was originally begun in 1945, and in 1949 the Court of Appeals decided that it was not a matter for the courts, but for the executive branch of the government to pass on the validity of the acts of the Nazi government.

The latest decision, in which the court reversed itself, is based on a State Department statement that it was the policy of the United States Government “to undo the forced transfers and restitute identifiable property to the victims of Nazi persecution wrongfully deprived of such property.”

The American Jewish Congress filed a friend of the court brief in support of Mr. Bernstein’s original suit. Later, when Mr. Bernstein appealed the court’s decision banning submission of forcible transfer, the AJC submitted another friend of the court brief to the Supreme Court.

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