Raub und Rückgabe jüdischen Eigentums. Heimatpflege des Bezirks Schwaben; Schwabenakademie Irsee, 20.11.2015–21.11.2015.
Reviewed by Andrea M. Gáldy
Published on H-Soz-u-Kult (February, 2016)
Raub und Rückgabe jüdischen Eigentums
In late November 2015 a gathering of local and legal historians, art historians and descendants of Jewish victims discussed the legal, institutional and organisational prerequisites of return and restitution of stolen property to its rightful owners after the end of WWII. The conference at Irsee was the 27th event in the series jointly organised by the Heimatpflege des Bezirks Schwaben (regional office for the protection of cultural heritage) and the Schwabenakademie Irsee.
After the welcome by Markwart Herzog (Irsee), Peter Fassl (Augsburg) pointed out that the labels of “restitution” and “redemption” were to be regarded as legal terms rather than moral obligation. The post-war public administration of Germany hesitated to create the necessary legislation. They had little choice in the American sector though and the Federal Republic developed the pertinent legal framework in the 1950s and 1960s under American supervision. From the start, there was considerable resistance against restitution: for instance, since it was occasionally deemed in breach of the German Civil Code. Third owners had purchased goods in a situation of general shortage of consumables in good faith and did not wish to give them up. Neither did the Federal Government wish to put further strain on the economic situation after a lost war. Therefore, this legal field remained a Sonderrechtsgebiet in the hands of the single Bundesländer for considerable time and was administrated regionally by the Inland Revenue. The relevant tax records have only been available since 2002, while the restitution records have only recently come into the public domain.
FLORIAN SCHWINGER (Nordendorf), a jurist currently engaged in doctoral research on Jewish lawyers in Germany, started his paper by explaining the principle of bona fide purchase and the assumption held by German law that a change of property before 1933 may have been lawful. After the foundation of the Federal Republic, and under the influence of US military government, a federal law was passed in the West that tried to amalgamate the highly diverse legal situation. After Adenauer had declared that Germany was guilty and needed to compensate the victims, the Bundesentschädigungsgesetz (federal law of compensation) was rushed into existence in 1956. According to paragraph 1, the victims were able to claim compensation for damage to life, health, liberty, property, patrimony, damage to their professional careers, as well as immediate financial aid for people returning to Germany at the rate of DM 6,000. Even though claims were filed up to the cut-off date of 1969, moneys are still being paid in the form of pensions. The Bundesrückgabegesetz (BRüG, the federal law regulating the restitution of stolen property) concerned goods formerly physically present on the territory of the FRG. In the GDR the legal situation was rather different, in that restitution was only given in the form of pensions to people who had been persecuted by the NS regime or had been fighting on the side of the resistance. Between 1959 and 1964, global treaties were ratified by the FRG with other states in Western Europe, for example with France and Greece plus an extra treaty with Israel.
In the case of the Augsburg lawyer Ludwig Dreifuss, a highly decorated soldier in WWI who from 1933 was arrested several times and who lost the permission to work in his profession in 1938, claim applications were filed after the war. In 1957 he received compensation payments of DM 20,000 for loss of income plus DM 600 for loss of liberty. In addition, he was reimbursed for special taxation on income and property (DM 1,442 plus 1,300) and was paid the usual flat rate of DM 6,000 for returning to Germany.
Much of what we know is based on archival sources, such as those described by RAINER JEDLITSCHKA (Augsburg) as being preserved in the state archives of Augsburg; in particular records of the German Inland Revenue. Therefore, archives act as places of memory as well as storage places; at the same time, they are vital instruments for the clarification of the victims’ legal and administrative situation as regards their claims for compensation. The claims administration in post-war Bavaria really took off with the foundation of BLEA (Bayerisches Landesentschädigungsamt) in 1949. Its duties included the receipt, investigation and preliminary notification of applications. In Bavaria, however, existed a separate administrative body, the BLVW (Bayerisches Landesamt fuer Vermögensverwaltung und Wiedergutmachung), active between 1946 and 1955 and responsible for the control of confiscated patrimonies, the installation of trustees as well as the restitution of verifiable patrimonies.
Today, most of the files are held at the Bavarian Main State Archives (BayHStA), at the State Archives Munich (StAM) and at the State Archives Augsburg (StAA), where they can be accessed if there is a “rightful interest” in accordance with the Bavarian Archive Regulations (1989) and the Archive Users’ Regulations (1990). These records are now for the most part in the public domain and can be consulted online as far as they have been digitised by the Forschungsverbund Provenienzforschung in Bayern (2015).
If the legal situation was often opaque and the source material not always easy to access and use, there was the added problem of determining the legal successors on both sides. JIM TOBIAS (Nuremberg) presented the case of claims filed by Kupferberg/Schneider against the German Reich and the Oberfinanzdirektion Nuremberg. Usually, the property of Jewish citizens was eagerly snapped up in the 1930s and only slowly and hesitantly returned after the end of the war.
In the case of Leo and Katharina Schneider of Nuremberg, there was a particular twist: the husband held Polish citizenship. When Leo was deported to Poland, his wife followed him and they gained refuge with relatives in Cracow, the daughters escaped to Switzerland. Allowed to return to Nuremberg, Leo and Katharina found that their estate had perhaps been Aryanised during their absence. Since their home and the Aryanisation office were destroyed, however, this suspicion proved difficult to substantiate. A settlement out of court was reached in 1955; the heirs received a few thousand Deutsche Marks.
KARIN SOMMER’S (Munich) presentation described a case of Aryanisation concerning Hans Bergmann in Laupheim (Baden-Wuerttemberg) and thus under the influence of French legislation. Bergmann had immigrated to the US and returned as a soldier during WWII. Back in the US, he started to investigate his family’s history in Laupheim from around the middle of the 19th century. Although in 1933 the Nazis were less successful in Laupheim than elsewhere in Swabia, the Bergmanns soon encountered hostility and found that they were no longer able to lead a normal life. Eventually, Max Bergmann and Gretel Bergmann, a sportswoman in the German Olympic team, immigrated to the US. The sale of the company for a fraction of its real value provided the money for the Fluchtsteuer imposed on Jewish citizens trying to leave Germany.
When the surviving Bergmanns filed a compensation claim, they had become US citizens, while Laupheim was in the French sector. By the time Max Bergmann started proceedings in 1951, he had to fight against the usual delaying tactics, against the fact that most of the documentation had been destroyed as well as against the false allegations by the consortium of partners who had acquired the company. In the end, the Bergmanns succeeded in getting most of their property, including the patents, back. They also received several thousands of Deutsche Marks in compensation from one of the buyers of the company.
RALF LIENERT (Kempten), CLAUDIA MADEL-BÖHRINGER (Ichenhausen) and KATRIN HOLLY (Augsburg) concluded the first day by presenting on diverse modes of dealing with restitution claims in the smaller cities of Kempten, Ichenhausen and Memmingen. While Kempten had an unusually small Jewish community with only a prayer room and a section of the Catholic cemetery reserved for its members, in Ichenhausen the Jewish community had a 400-year-old tradition, presenting almost 50 per cent of the population in 1830. Jewish citizens were often engaged in the textile industry, in particular men’s fashion, and provided work for Christian employees. The city council was not keen to destroy this source of income. In Memmingen, by contrast, there was little hesitation in purchasing art, household objects and real estate from Jewish citizens and in exploiting the unfortunate situation of the rightful owners. Here, the mayor Dr Heinrich Berndl played an important if shifty role in the purchases made by the city as well as by the Stadtsparkasse. After the war, a settlement out of court was preferred by both parties in the interest of speed.
Several factors made restitution and compensation rather complicated. Often the payment for a forced sale was not only set below the real value of the property but also went to a blocked account, which would eventually be seized by the German Reich. In cases, in which the claimant wished for compensation in kind, the city of Memmingen later sued the German Reich, and thus the Federal Republic of Germany as its successor, to regain the original payment. Even in cases, where the family could clearly prove that they had been the owners and were dispossessed as the result of racial persecution, the actual value of the property was difficult to establish and might differ by as much as DM 20,000 from one estimate to the next.
MAREN JANETZKO (Nuremberg) opened the second day with a presentation on the restitution of companies in Augsburg and Memmingen. By the time victims and perpetrators met in court, often the victims sorely needed the compensation payments, while the buyers were in no position to pay. In addition, the negotiations leading to the sale had not always been entirely unfair, as the example of the company MS Landauer in Augsburg shows. Nonetheless, Otto Landauer received a top-up payment of DM 35,000 as well as a number of buildings in 1948.
GERHARD FÜRMETZ (Munich), KARL BORROMÄUS MURR (Augsburg), PAUL HOSER (Munich), and OTTMAR SEUFFERT (Donauwörth) presented four further case studies with their focus on real estate, companies and the infamous role played by banks such as Dresdner Bank and at least some of the trustees put in place after WWII. The pattern for the sale of private buildings that emerged from the presentation shows that real estate was usually acquired at two-thirds below the real value. These studies also attest to the harassment the victims had to face both before and after the war, as they were trying to fight for their rights and their property, sometimes for decades.
Finally, with MIRIAM FRIEDMANN (Augsburg) a descendent of victims took the discussion from the theoretical and historical to the personal. As she explained, restitution procedures were influenced by the wish to protect the German economy and to do it fast and cheaply. Denazification only happened on the surface and often the same people filled positions of responsibility before and after WWII.
Both of Miriam Friedmann’s grandparents were under pressure to sell their companies and other property before deportation or suicide in the hope to save some family goods for their children and grandchildren. For example in the case of the Friedmann property, the house on Martin Luther Square in Augsburg (built 1774), was Aryanised at a very low price, only part of which was paid into a blocked account by Baron Schnurbein. It was later heavily damaged by allied bombing. After a settlement was agreed in 1951, the ruined house was returned to the family.
While the academic case studies presented at this conference gave a glimpse of the cruelty, greed and efficiency of a totalitarian system such as the NS regime, it was particularly touching to hear directly from a family member of the victims who not only suffered at the hands of a ruthless bureaucracy but also at the hands of their former friends and neighbours.
Markwart Herzog (Irsee): Begrüßung
Peter Fassl (Augsburg): Einführung in das Thema und Stand der Forschung
Florian Schwinger (Nordendorf): Die Entwicklung von Restitution und Wiedergutmachung in rechtlicher Hinsicht
Rainer Jedlitschka (Augsburg): Die Überlieferung der Restitutions- und Finanzamtsakten im Staatsarchiv Augsburg
Jim Tobias (Nürnberg): AZ: III WKv210/54 – Das „Wiedergutmachungs“-Verfahren Kupferberg/Schneider gegen Deutsches Reich/OFD Nürnberg
Karin Sommer (München): Arisierung und Wiedergutmachung. Der Fall Bergmann aus Laupheim
Ralf Lienert (Kempten): Restitution und Wiedergutmachungen an ausgewählten Fällen aus Kempten
Claudia Madel-Böhringer (Ichenhausen): Ausgewählte Restitutions- und Wiedergutmachungsfälle aus Ichenhausen
Katrin Holly (Augsburg): Wiedergutmachung enteigneter jüdischer Grundstücke in der Stadt Memmingen
Maren Janetzko (Nürnberg): Die Restitution mittelständischer Unternehmen in Augsburg und Memmingen
Miriam Friedmann (Augsburg): Wiedergutmachung im Spannungsfeld zwischen Rechtsprechung und Realität, aus Sicht meiner beiden Familien Friedmann und Oberdorfer
Gerhard Fürmetz (München): Häuser erzählen Schicksale. Raub und (Nicht-)Rückgabe von jüdischen Bürgerhäusern in Augsburg
Karl Borromäus Murr (Augsburg): Restitution und Wiedergutmachung. Der Fall Bernheim in Augsburg
Paul Hoser (München): „Der Wiedergutmachungs- und Entschädigungsfall“ Hugo Erlanger in München
Ottmar Seuffert (Donauwörth): Restitution und Wiedergutmachung. Der Fall Prokownik in Donauwörth
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Andrea M. Gáldy. Review of , Raub und Rückgabe jüdischen Eigentums.
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