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German Ordered to Furnish $235,000 Security in Restitution Case

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To safeguard the restitution claim of a New York Jewish businessman, Karl Joel, against the owner of one of Germany’s largest mail order houses, the latter has been ordered by the Restitution Chamber of the local German court to furnish a bank guarantee of $235,000, believed to be the highest amount ever fixed prior to a decision on the claim as such.

Mr. Joel had built up a successful mail order house in this city and in Berlin. In 1938, when anti-Jewish measures made it utterly impossible to continue operating the business, he entered into sales negotiations with a Wuerzburg textile retailer, Josef Neckermann. Before a contract could be drawn up, he had to flee for his life to Switzerland. The purchase price which Neckermann eventually paid went into a blocked account that was seized by the Nazi state, without Joel receiving a penny.

The Aryanized business flourished. As a precaution against wartime air raids, Neckermann moved it to a small Bavarian town. The U. S. Military Government later sequestered it as presumptive Jewish property. A series of “custodians” were named to operate it, but in the end they completely dissipated the assets. This worthless shell, Neckermann has offered to “restitute” to Joel.

Under a slightly different trade name, Neckermann himself launched a mail order house in Frankfurt four years ago and has made it into one of the largest in West Germany. He describes it as entirely distinct and separate from the old firm, whereas Joel, insisting that it is based on the good will of the original business, asks that the Frankfurt business be restored to him. Although the legal dispute has been dragging for more than six years, no verdict has yet been reached by the Restitution Chamber. Any ruling it issues is likely to be appealed to two higher courts in turn.

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