View Full Version : Jewish Family Steals Berlin Property

Thursday, October 27th, 2005, 01:25 AM
By DAVID McHUGH 2 hours, 13 minutes ago

BERLIN - Germany's highest administrative court has upheld claims to real estate in Berlin by heirs of a Jewish family who lost their department store fortune under the Nazis.
The ruling is a victory for the Wertheim heirs, and delivers a setback to KarstadtQuelle, which had fought the family's claim to the site of its former downtown Berlin department store near the city's glitzy, redeveloped Potsdamer Platz square worth millions of dollars.
The State Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled that the Wertheims retained their claim on the property because they had not been compensated for it under Allied restitution programs. The decision was made Oct. 13 and publicized by the family's U.S. attorney, Gary Osen of Oradell, New Jersey, in a press release Wednesday.
"I have always had great confidence in the German court system and this faith has been redeemed," said Barbara Principe of Newfield, N.J. She is the granddaughter of one of the founding members of the Wertheim company.
"KarstadtQuelle should do what is right and give up this fruitless fight over property that never belonged to them in the first place," she said. A KarstadtQuelle spokesman could not immediately be reached.
Attorneys for their heirs said in a statement the property would be sold and the proceeds would be distributed to the scattered heirs by the Jewish Claims Conference, which helps distribute Nazi-era reparations. The department store site is worth some $20 million, attorneys for the heirs said.
Wertheim brothers Georg, Franz and Wilhelm transferred their interest in the company holding properties in Berlin to third parties during the Nazi era, the court said in its decision. The family got their shares back after World War II under Allied restitution programs, it said, but without recompense for property in Soviet-controlled East Berlin.
The stake was sold to the Hertie retailer in 1951, which was merged with Karstadt-Quelle in 1999. KarstadtQuelle has said it legally acquired the property, but Wertheim heirs have fought a years-long legal battle to get it back.
The disputed property parcel lay in no-man's land between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Since German reunification in 1990 the surrounding area has become the scene of bustling redevelopment.
Attorneys for their heirs said the decision opened the way for claims on a total of 24 acres of former Wertheim property in Berlin, which they estimated to be worth some $200 million.