Leipzig Jewish Community at Odds with Claims Conference over Inheritance

The site of the former great synagogue of Leipzjg has become the subject of a power struggle between the local Jewish community and an organization set up to distribute German reparations to Holocaust survivors.

The impressive Moorish-style synagogue was burned down on Kristallnacht, in November 1938, when anti-Semitic mobs in Germany attacked Jewish sites throughout the country.

Now, the city of Leipzig and the local Jewish community want to erect on the site a monument commemorating the 14,000 Leipzig Jews who were murdered by the Nazis during World War II.

But so far, nothing has come of the plans primarily because the local Jewish community and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany are at odds over who is in charge of the site.

In 1948, the Soviet occupation authorities who were in control over what was then East Germany returned the site to what remained of the Jewish community.

But in 1987, two years before the collapse of East Germany, under orders of the government, the Jewish community was forced to sell the property to a local housing company.

Following the reunification of Germany in 1989, the local Jewish community claimed that the turnover of the property was illegal and claimed ownership of the real estate. Leipzig officials are meanwhile claiming that the property belongs to the city.

Despite their differences, city officials and the Jewish community have agreed to erect the memorial monument on the site.

But the Claims Conference cast its veto over their agreement.

The Claims Conference was set up as a result of the Luxembourg Agreement of 1952, which called for the German government to pay reparations to victims of Nazi war crimes through the conference.

The conference does not object to erecting the monument.

But it wants to do so only after the issue of ownership has been cleared – if need be, in the courts.

Claims director Karl Brozik has argued that since the original Jewish community of Leipzig has perished, its legal heirs were not the new Jewish community, but rather Jewish Holocaust survivors throughout the world.

Only 34 Jews are currently registered in the local community, in addition to 60 recent emigres from the former Soviet Union.

But Rolf Isaacsohn, director-general of the community, told the German news magazine Der Spiegel earlier this month that the current community was continuing the heritage of past communities and ought to be regarded as an outgrowth of the prewar community.

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