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Return of Confiscated Property May Enrich Jewish Life in Berlin

Former Berlin Jews or their heirs who are trying to recover property confiscated either by the Nazis or later by the former East German Communist regime stand to get rich.

But they are expected, in turn, to enrich the Jewish and general communal life in the old Prussian metropolis that was Germany’s capital until the fall of the Third Reich and a divided city for more than 40 years afterward.

Scores of Jewish Berliners eligible to get back their real estate plan to settle in Berlin, according to officials interviewed.

Much of the restored property is in the traditional heart of Berlin, which was located in the eastern sector of the formerly divided city.

Developers and contractors who have spoken to claimants say they have very definite ideas about what to do with the property.

“They, of course, know how valuable the land is in the most precious area of united Berlin, and they certainly intend to make the best use of the new situation,” one developer said.

The prospect of Jewish property in Berlin being restored to its owners became a reality after East and West Germany united last year.

But the process may take years because of complex legal and practical problems.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to revive Jewish life in Berlin,” said one city official, “and we are grateful to those who seriously consider the possibility of coming back to the town and participate in the reconstruction work.”

Not only individuals but the Berlin Jewish community as a whole will get back property. The community is claiming former hospitals, schools, cultural centers and homes for the aged.

In most cases, those properties were used for purposes not intended. An example is a former Jewish home for the aged, which the dreaded Communist secret police, Stasi, appropriated for its headquarters. It will revert to the original owners.

The JTA Daily News Bulletin will not be published on Monday, May 27, because of the Memorial Day holiday in the United States.

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