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City of Frankfurt to Pay $760,000 Restitution to Jewish Community

By unanimous vote, the Frankfurt City Council has approved an overall restitution settlement with the Jewish community the first of its kind in any West German city to provide compensation for the looting and illegal use of communal buildings during the Naziler.

The settlement involves $760,000 in cash, payable in annual installments of $120,000 It also provides for the formal return of title to certain real estate, notably the buildings which used to be the seat of the century old “Philanthropin” Jewish high school and of the one-time Orthodox elementary school, the large West End Synagogue, the former Jewish Hospital on Gagernstrasse that now accommodates the Old-Age Home of the Community, and nine cemeteries within the municipal area.

In introducing the motion for the restitution-settlement, city councillor Hugo Dornheim of the Social Democratic Party reminded his colleagues that the disappearance of 35,000 Jewish citizens had left a void in the cultural, scientific and economic sphere perhaps more noticeable in Frankfurttian in any other German city. He recalled how the Nazi municipality had in April 1939, five months after the November pogroms and synagogue burnings. “purchased” for a song the entire real estate that was the property of the Jewish Community. The buildings were later used for Nazi purposes, their equipment and furnishings largely scattered.

Even the negligible purchase price had not in fact been made available, the Social Democratic leader pointed out. He cited a recent judgment of the Frankfurt Superior Court in a test case brought by the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization. With reference to the 1931 “sales contract,” the court held that a transaction must be considered immoral and invalid “when the other business partner is doomed to perdition and has been forewarned of his forthcoming perdition through acts of brutal savagery.”

Now Frankfurt wanted to rectify those violations of human and civic rights, Mr. Dornheim stated, and to compensate the Jewish community for the losses and damage suffered in connection therewith. It wanted to proffer the hand of reconciliation by carrying out, as the first city in West Germany, this comprehensive type of restitution settlement. He admitted it had been overdue ever since the enactment of the Allied Restitution Law in 1947.

Spokesmen for the three other parties represented in the City Council also supported the proposed agreement. For German cities which have been even more laggard, said Dr. Hans, Wilhelmi of the Christian Democratic Union, Frankfurt’s attitude would set an example.

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