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German Jews Interned in Shanghai During War Seek Compensation

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Whether German Jews herded into the Shanghai ghetto from February 1943 to May 1945 are entitled to compensation under West German indemnification legislation, is now at issue before the local Superior Court in an important test case.

In 1938 and 1939, some 20,000 German and Austrian Jews fled to Shanghai because that international, port was the last place on earth where they could take refuge without a visa. In 1943 the Japanese military ordered all such Jews shut up in the slums of Hongkew, which was circled with barbed wire and henceforth became the “Shanghai ghetto.”

The Japanese obviously acted under Nazi pressure, but today the German indemnification agencies argue that no documentary proof of such pressure has been presented by Jewish indemnification applicants. Without such proof, they contend, they are not in a position to pay out the slightly more than $1,00 per day which the Federal Indemnification Law provides for illegal arrest carried out or instigated by the Nazi authorities.

The issue has now, for the first time, reached an appellate court. Because testimony by the interned Jews themselves is not considered sufficiently expert, a whole galaxy of top Nazi diplomats formerly active in the Far East were summoned as witnesses. Two survivors of the ghetto were also heard. The plaintiff in the present suit, Frankfurt resident Else Sommer, had been turned down by the lower court. A decision on her appeal is not expected before next month.

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