German Court Disposes of Case Instigated by Pro-arab Lobbyist

A court case that threatened to stir up an embarrassing hubbub about reparations to Israel was quietly disposed of here by invoking the 1954 amnesty. At issue was the second appeal of State Secretary Dr. Theodor Sonnemann against the $350 fine imposed upon him some years ago for allegedly slandering Joachim Hertslet, an import-export promoter regarded as the top German coordinator of the Arab campaign against the 1952 ratification of the reparations pact with Israel.

Dr. Sonnemann, who is State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, was convicted because he had at that time referred to Hertslet as a “traitor” and a “noxious element.” This, he indicated in the earlier trials, was done upon instructions from West German Chancelor Dr. Konrad Adenauer.

The Chancellor had reportedly instructed his Cabinet to desist from dealing with Hertslet, a former Nazi specialist in international trade and propaganda who had grown wealthy in postwar Bonn as an influence peddler obtaining hard-to-get government import licenses on behalf of his clients. When he returned from the Middle East in 1952 and behind the scenes took charge of the anti-reparations drive, he nearly succeeded in thwarting the parliamentary passage of the Reparations Agreement.

It was his pro-Arab lobbying which irked Chancellor Adenauer and eventually evoked a warning against doing business with Hertslet. The latter saw his earnings dwindle and initiated a series of judicial maneuvers aimed at compelling the Federal Government to back down. He asked the courts to award him $120,000 in damages and brought a variety of suits not only against State Secretary Sonnemann, but also against State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Walter Hallstein and against Chancellor Adenauer.

Democratic and Jewish circles here considered most unfortunate the line of questioning which Hertslet was expected to pursue with respect to the complex antecedents of the reparations pact. This the District Court obviated two weeks ago by ruling that the lower court was mistaken in declaring the 1954 amnesty to be inapplicable.

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