Bonn Upper House Approves $357,000,000 Bill on Restitution Debts

The Bundesrat, upper house of the West German Parliament, approved in a first reading today the draft of a bill providing for the payment of $357,000,000 to Nazi victims in settlement of restitution obligations of the former German state. A number of technical changes have been made in the bill by the Bundesrat.

The bill now goes back to the Cabinet for deliberations on the recommended changes It will then be submitted to the Bundestag, the lower house, which must pass it in three readings, and thereafter to the Federal Council for a second reading. There is no hope that the measure will be taken up by the Bundestag before the summer recess.

The draft law deals with a wide range of restitution claims against the German Reich by Nazi victims. The most important item is the refund of discriminatory taxes and levies, as well as of compulsory payments made in connection with the one-billion mark fine imposed upon the Jews of Germany after the assassination in Paris of German Counselor of Embassy Ernst vom Rath by Hershel Grynszpan in November of 1938.

Other claims concern gold, silver, jewelry and art works that had to be given up to the municipal pawnshops at the same time; houses and real estate seized by the state and retained by it to this day; furniture and personal effects confiscated, particularly from among the goods of departing Jews, that had been consigned by them to countries of emigration, and auctioned off for the benefit of the German exchequer.

So far, almost none of these claims have been satisfied, even though thousands of court judgments were obtained against the German state. Restitution legislation on the books applies to private individuals or business firms only, while the German state itself has sidestepped the return of its ill-gotten gains. Under the Hague Agreement and the Paris Conventions, the West German Government limited its liability for all restitution claims to the arbitrary figure of $357,000,000.

The Special Committee for Indemnification Questions of the Federal Council supported the view of the Federal Government that the present bill should encompass the restitution obligations of no German state other than Prussia. Although this stipulation runs counter to a recommendation by the Finance Committee, it was adopted by the Federal Council. This means that yet another law must be enacted for meeting the restitution obligations of states like Bavaria; Hesse or Hamburg. Such a law is not even in preparation and in any case has no chance of being introduced before 1957.

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