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Germany Promises Restitution to Jews, Seeks Peace with Israel

September 28, 1951
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The West German Republic today offered to negotiate a settlement of Jewish claims for restitution with representatives of the Jewish people and the State of Israel and expressed the desire to achieve peace with the Jewish State. The offer came in a statement before the West German Parliament today by Dr. Konrad Adenauer, the Chancellor, and was overwhelmingly approved by the chamber.

In his statement, previously agreed on by the Cabinet, Dr. Adenauer expressed the “abhorrence” of the German people for the crimes committed under the Nazi regime but declared that the overshelmingly majority of the German people had not participated in them.

The Chancellor called on the German people to recognize the full equality of the Jews of Germany and to give life to the Convention on Human Rights which Germany had signed. He announced his government would introduce legislation providing heavy punishment for anti-Semitic agitation and promised vigorous enforcement. He declared that further restitution legislation would be introduced and pledged the government to implement it speedily.


Dr. Adenauer told Parliament that world opinion had recently given much thought to the attitude of the German Federal Republic towards the Jews and that occasionally doubts had been voiced whether the new German State, on this important question, was motivated by principles taking into account the terrible crimes of the past and by the desire to place the relationship between the Jews and the German people on a new and healthy basis.

The attitude of the Federal Republic to its Jewish citizens, he said, was firmly laid down in Article III of the Constitution which states that all men are equal before the law and no one is to receive unfair or preferential treatment because of race, language, descent, home, origin, faith, religion or political beliefs. Furthermore, he said, Article I of the Constitution states that human dignity is unassailable and it is the duty of the State to respect and protect it.

The German people, Dr. Adenauer declared, therefore acknowledges the inviolable, inalienable human rights as the basis of every human community of peace and justice in the world. These legal standards are immediately applicable and make it the duty of every German citizen, particularly every German civil servant, to reject racial discrimination in any shape or description.

It was in this spirit, the Chancellor continued, that the Federal Government had signed the Convention on Human Rights drafted by the Council of Europe and works for realization of the legal ideas contained in this document. These standards, however, he said, can only become effective if the spirit which evolved them becomes the common property of the whole people. This, therefore, is the first and foremost problem of education.

The Federal Government considers it most urgent that the churches and educational institutions do all in their power to ensure that the spirit of human religion and tolerance does not merely receive lip service, but becomes a recognized attitude of mind and is translated into practice by the German people, as a whole, particularly the youth. This, he said, constitutes the essential task of all those concerned with education, but it must be supplemented by the example of others.


In line with this task and to preserve the internal peace of the republic, Dr. Adenauer announced, the government has decided to fight those circles still engaged in anti-Semitic propaganda by relentless criminal proceedings. The Federal Parliament will be asked, he added, to agree to proposals strengthening the criminal code to provide heavy punishment for racial propaganda. He promised that the government would unhesitatingly apply these measures.

The Chancellor said that the Federal Government and the vast majority of the German people were fully conscious of the immeasurable sufferings inflicted upon the Jews in Germany and in the regions occupied by the German Army during National Socialism. In its overwhelming majority, he asserted, the German people abhorred the crimes committed against the Jews and did not participate in them. During the National Socialist regime there were many in Germany who were in danger of their own lives because of religious reasons or because they were impelled by their conscience to aid their German fellow citizens.

In the name of the German people, he said, unspeakable crimes were committed which impose the duty of moral and material restitution both as regards individual losses suffered by the Jews and the losses of Jewish property owners who are no longer alive. The first steps have been taken in this direction, the Chancellor declared, but much remains to be done. The Government will see to it that restitution legislation comes into force as soon as possible and that it is carried out. Some of the identifiable Jewish property has been returned and further restitution will follow.

Referring to the extent of the restitution to be made, Chancellor Adenauer noted that in view of the enormous destruction of Jewish property by the Nazis, this was a very important problem. He said there must be borne in mind the bitter necessity of caring for innumerable war victims, refugees and exiles.

He expressed a willingness to find a solution to the problem of material restitution together with representatives of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel which had taken in so many homeless Jewish refugees, in order to facilitate the way to spiritual alleviation of untold suffering.

He said the government was deeply conscious of the necessity of revitalizing and fertilizing the spirit of true humanity and that the Federal Government regarded it as the proudest duty of the German people to serve this spirit with all its might.

Paul Loebe, Social Democratic spokesman, told the chamber that “Germany has moral obligation to try, with all its power, to achieve reconciliation with the State of Israel and the Jews of the world. It is up to us Germans to take the first step. The Social Democrats therefore will heartily support this action of the Federal Government. We would have welcomed it being taken eralier and with greater determination.” He asserted that all right-thinking people were ashamed of the infamous deed committed under a misuse of Germany’s name to the horror of the “overwhelming majority” of the German people.

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