German court rejects bid for return of estate seized by Nazis
KARLSRUHE, Germany - Germany's top court dismissed a claim yesterday for the return of land seized by the Nazis from its Jewish owner in 1933.
Jewish businessman Adolf Sommerfeld, who owned nearly 80 percent of a company building a housing estate in the Berlin suburb of Kleinmachnow, was beaten up and shot at by Nazi thugs and fled Germany in 1933, the year the Nazis came to power.
The Nazis later sold the homes to their occupants, who are now the owners. Seizures of property from Jews continued through the 1930s, culminating in the Holocaust.
A 1997 German law that ordains the return of property unfairly seized by the Nazis from Jews specifically excludes housing estates.
The German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe said this exclusion was constitutional, even if it discriminated against certain ex-owners.
Christian Meyer, a Berlin lawyer representing about 20 heirs of Sommerfeld, said about 700 other similar land claims had depended on the case. They are now all likely to be dismissed.
In the fundamental ruling, the court said reparations were up to the government to decide and were not dictated by the constitution. Excluding housing estates from claims was not "arbitrary" in the legal sense.
Meyer attacked the ruling, saying the heirs were left with nothing. He said he would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.