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B’nai B’rith Files Claim with Germany for Assets Seized by Nazis

B’nai B’rith today made public a restitution claim against the West German Government for portable assets seized by the Nazis in 1937 and valued at $2,500,000. Details of the claim were outlined in a memorandum which B’nai B’rith president Philip Klutznick presented to the West German Embassy here today.

The memorandum proposed a single “global settlement” covering the individual claims of more than 100 B’nai B’rith lodges that were active in 84 cities in Germany until the B’nai B’rith movement was forcibly dissolved as “inimical” to the Nazi state.

The claim involves only the movable assets that were confiscated and not the large amount of real property, including many lodge houses, a Berlin headquarters building and various orphanages and old age homes which were part of the B’nai B’rith service program in Germany. The buildings have been returned to B’nai B’rith but in most instances were destroyed in the war and worthless.

The memorandum pointed out that the Nazi confiscations, in addition to seizing cash, bank accounts and security holdings, also carried off expensive furnishings, carpeting, valuable paintings, extensive libraries, organs, kitchen and dining room equipment and similar property. To date B’nai B’rith has received less than $10,000 in small restitution settlements from various state courts in West Germany.

Mr. Klutznick said today that restitution proceeds would be earmarked “to help reestablish the shattered communal lives of former German members of B’nai B’rith now living in Israel and South America, and to permit the reopening of B’nai B’rith in West Germany.”

Earlier this year B’nai B’rith received an application from the leaders of West Berlin’s Jewish community for reconstituting a lodge there. The matter has been held in abeyance, Mr. Klutznick said, awaiting consideration of the restitution claim. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer first urged B’nai B’rith’s return to Germany in a meeting with Mr. Klutznick in Bonn in 1955.

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