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Lawsuit for Wartime Restitution is Filed Against Germany in Israel

April 15, 2003
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Holocaust survivors now living in the United States and Israel have filed a class-action lawsuit in Israel against Germany.

Based on newly opened archives in Germany, the lawsuit claims restitution of property seized from Jewish citizens by the Nazi government.

Attorney Abraham Sofer, speaking for the Tel Aviv-based law firm of Lipa Meir, said four former German citizens filed the lawsuit on April 10 in a Jerusalem district court.

Sofer told JTA the decision to file in Israel was made based on experiences filing similar lawsuits in the United States against Germany.

Further information would be released after the Israeli judge has a chance to review the case, he said. The German government has not issued a formal response.

In 2001, after years of negotiations, the German government and German industry representatives reached an agreement for compensating Nazi-era slave and forced laborers.

The agreement protects Germany from lawsuits related to slave and forced laborers, but not from lawsuits related to the return of property.

According to Sofer, the archives contain lists of Jewish assets going back to 1938.

Before deporting the Jews of Germany, the Nazi government forced them to list their belongings. After mass deportations began in 1941, auctions were held of the belongings, with the proceeds going to the Nazi government.

In recent years, a handful of German historians have probed archives for documents related to the auctions.

One result has been several ground-breaking exhibits including not only detailed lists of belongings — down to clean versus soiled clothing — but also the names of the German companies that hauled off the items from apartments and homes from which Jews had been deported; names of auctioneers; and the identities of some of the people who bought items once belonging to Jews.

The names can be seen on the bills that carting companies and auctioneers charged to the Nazi government for the service of disposing of Jewish property.

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