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Woman wins compensation in Germany

BERLIN, Feb. 15 (JTA) — A case of property restitution has been resolved by a German judge who decided that an 81-year-old woman should be compensated for the furnishings of a medical clinic her parents ran in prewar Germany. Gabriela Hammerstein already has established her legal rights to a sanatorium her parents had run. As her parents’ only remaining direct heir, Hammerstein most likely will receive a few thousand dollars in compensation for medical equipment and furnishings taken from her parents’ outpatient clinic, the court said. Hammerstein was neither plaintiff nor defendant in the case. Rather, it was one of thousands of cases that the Claims Conference has handled since German unification opened the door to restitution of Jewish property formerly within the communist East German state. An unusual aspect of the Hammerstein case is that the heir hopes to spend some of the last years of her life in the country her family fled — something few German-Jewish exiles can say. The Claims Conference was established by 23 major Jewish organizations in 1951 to negotiate material compensation from Germany for Holocaust survivors and victims’ heirs. It pursues these cases as the legal successor to unclaimed Jewish property. Sometimes, as in this case, a legal heir turns up. The conference established a goodwill fund in 1994 to make payments to certain heirs who missed the German filing deadline, which was December 1992. Hammerstein grew up in Schwerin, in what later became East Germany. Her family fled Nazi Germany for the United States. Judge Eckhard Corsmeyer, who recommended that the German government pay compensation, told JTA that Claims Conference attorney Stefan Minden indicated that the proceeds should go to Hammerstein. Corsmeyer said the federal government has six weeks to approve his recommendation, but said he didn’t expect a challenge, particularly as the sum involved is so small. “I consider it a good ruling,” he said. Since its inception, the conference has won more than 25 agreements with the German government, obtaining pensions and other payments for survivors as well as compensation for property. Compensation and income from the sale of unclaimed property are dedicated to organizations that serve survivors and their heirs, as well as to Holocaust education.