NEW YORK (Sep. 8)
The World Jewish Congress has vowed to fight any efforts to compensate the heirs to the company that made the crematoriums used by the Nazis.
Heirs to the J.A. Topf and Sons company have filed for restitution for the factory site and other assets, which were seized by the communists after World War II. The heirs made their claim under the terms of legislation enacted when Germany was reunified in October 1990.
“We are calling for the German government to block any transfer of assets to the heirs. If that fails, we intend to take legal action,” said Elan Steinberg, the WJC excutive director.
The Topf family heirs have asked for the factory site and other assets or financial compensation for the property, which has been valued at more than $2 million.
“That would be the money off the burnt bodies of Auschwitz and the other crematoria,” said Steinberg.
The factory site, which is located in the eastern industrial city of Erfurt, was seized by the Soviets in 1945. Under current German law, land confiscated between 1945 and 1949 by communist authorities in what would later become East Germany, cannot be returned.
This does not apply, however, to private assets such as money, jewelry or private homes, for which restitution can be sought.
Last month, a regional German government office said the Topf heirs would not get back the factory site, but their claims for equivalent assets were still being determined.
The announcement inflamed not only Jewish groups but other Germans.
‘EVIDENCE OF THE GENERAL POLITICAL CLIMATE’
The Social Democratic Party issued a statement calling any consideration of reparations in this case “awful and shameless.
“The demand of the heirs of J.A. Topf and Sons to obtain reparations in the amount of $2 million for expropriated land that belonged to the firm in the German Democratic Republic can hardly be surpassed by shamelessness. The firm J.S. Topf and Sons manufactured crematoriums for concentration camps during the Nazi period,” the party said in a statement.
“The fact that they claim reparations does not give witness solely for the heirs of this concentration camp (manufacturing) company. It is evidence of the general political climate in the Federal Republic that they dare to do so,” the statement said.
Last year, Gerald Fleming, a retired lecturer in German at the University of Surrey, England, discovered in Russian archives the records of J.A. Topf and Sons.
Testimony from a senior engineer said the company’s design innovation, to use the fat of burning corpses as fuel to operate the furnaces, “could not yet be approved” for a patent because it was classified by the Third Reich as a state secret.
The West German Patent Office gave Topf the patent in 1953.