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Germans Name Jewish Leader As Head of Indemnification Program

August 13, 1954
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Baden-Wuerttemberg indemnification program, which was headed by Otto Kuester until his summary dismissal last week, has been put in temporary charge of Robert Perlen, 70-year-old former president of the Superior Court here.

A member of the board of the local Jewish Community, Perlen practiced as private attorney in this city until the war. He was appointed a judge after the collapse of the Nazi regime, but retired some years ago upon reaching the age limit.

In the State Parliament, the chairman of the four major political parties approved the abrupt dismissal of Kuester because he had “disparaged the Government and individual Ministers” in a private letter divulged through a crass breach of confidence by a correspondent of the newsmagazine “Der Spiegel. ” Former Minister of Justice Viktor Renner pointed out, however, that Kuester had not deliberately made the letter public and that the government previously wronged him on a number of occasions.

Analyzing the motives of the firing, Dr. Renner asserted that “quite obviously old prejudices came to the fore. ” He referred to letters in which the present Minister President, Dr. Gebhard Mueller, had stated that, on restitution questions, his views differed from those of Kuester “in almost every respect.” Moreover, he recalled, Dr. Mueller had struck from the draft of his governmental statement of policy the sentence pledging that indemnification would be pursued with unwavering energy.

In his reply, the Minister President admitted that he had been and was still opposed to Kuester’s advocacy of the Israel reparations pact, but insisted that he favored indemnification for individual claimants. The letter, which is given as the reason for the transformation of Kuester’s six-month notice into summary dismissal, was addressed to Prof. Franz Boehm, former head of the German delegation to the reparations negotiations with Israel at The Hague, and now member of the Bundestag.

In an address over Radio Frankfurt, Professor Boehm strongly defended the right of Kuester to make the private statements he did, notably Kuester’s allusion to the Nazi past of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Minister of Finance. Kuester, who was just about the last high-ranking German indemnification official willing to fight for an equitable indemnification program, is returning to the private practice of law.

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