Restitution and Indemnification (German)

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Individual Reparations

restitution laws

After the collapse of Nazi Germany in World War ii the Western occupying powers obligated the holders of property which had come into their possession by unlawful means to restore it to the rightful owners. Since the Reich no longer existed, the measures taken were notably inadequate as they did not apply to the Reich as the former legal entity which perpetrated the crimes and was therefore responsible for restitution. Furthermore, there was no access to most of the plundered property. As a result, in Article iv, Part 3 of the Ueberleitungsvertrag (the agreement with the Western Powers on the establishment of the German Federal Republic, May 26, 1952), the Federal Republic undertook to provide a remedy. For this purpose it issued a special law on July 10, 1957, the Federal Restitution Law (Gesetz zur Regelung der rueckerstattungsrechtlichen Verbindlichkeiten des Deutschen Reiches und gleichgestellter Rechtstraeger – brue-g).

The Federal Indemnification Law (Bundesentschaedigungsgesetz – beg). The restitution of property to its rightful owner did not, of course, necessarily repair the damage inflicted by the Reich's criminal acts. Life, health, liberty, and livelihood could not be restored. In the first instance the German Laender attempted to provide a solution to the problem, but this uneven arrangement was eventually replaced by the Federal Supplementary Law (Bundesergaenzungsgesetz – berg-g), of Sept. 18, 1953, a uniform law applicable to the entire Federal Republic enacted by the German government in fulfillment of its obligations under the Luxembourg Agreement of Sept. 10, 1952 (see *Reparations, German) and the Hague Protocols. The berg-g was later improved upon by the beg – Federal Indemnification Law – of June 29, 1956, which was further revised and finalized in the beg – Final Law of Sept. 14, 1965. This federal legislation provides indemnification for the victims of national socialism subjected to Nazi persecution for "race," religion, or political views and incurring loss of life, injury to health, deprivation of liberty, loss of property, and damage to professional or economic advancement. German restitution was complemented by additional laws which were also based on the Hague Protocols.

The following are the more important laws in this category: law of reparations to public servants persecuted by the Nazis (Gesetz zur Regelung der Wiedergutmachung national-sozialistischen Unrechts fuer Angehoerige des oeffentlichen Dienstes; bwgoe-d) of April 1, 1951 (several revisions, final version Dec. 15, 1965). In the versions passed on March 18, 1952 and Dec. 23, 1955, this law also applies to claimants living abroad. Paragraph 31d of the law, in compliance with the Hague Protocols, also provides for relief to former employees of Jewish communities and other public institutions (cf. the two relevant regulations, dated July 6, 1956 and (April 2, 1963); a law for the redress of National-Socialist Party injustices concerning the relief for war victims (final version June 25, 1958), and the same law for claimants living abroad (final version, June 25, 1958): a law providing rights to social insurance for victims (Aug. 22, 1949) with many subsequent revisions; a law on insurance for employees (Feb. 23, 1957 plus revisions); a law on revised regulations for the payment of social insurance benefits to foreigners and persons living abroad (fang) dated Feb. 25, 1960; and the revised law on social insurance benefits of June 9, 1965, Dec. 23, 1966, and May 8, 1967. Article x of the beg-Final Law contains a clause for continuing insurance, apart from past restitution payments; the 11th enactment regulation of the Lastenausgleichsgesetz (lag law for the equalization of burdens), passed on Dec. 18, 1956, and revised on Sept. 17, 1957, and Feb. 28, 1961, is also based upon the Luxembourg Agreement and the Hague Protocols. It provides indemnification to victims of Nazi persecution under certain conditions not specified by the beg and the brue-g because of the territorial provisions of these laws. Heirless and unclaimed property and the property of disbanded Jewish communities and other institutions (foundations and the like) were to be turned over to the successor organizations – in the former American Zone to the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (jrso), and in the former British and later also the former French Zone, to the Jewish Trust Corporation for Germany (jts).

Collective Reparations

The German Federal Republic also made global agreements with certain states and provided certain funds to indemnify the citizens of these states who suffered under Nazi persecution. Such agreements were concluded with Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Sweden. The total payments made under these agreements amounted to dm972,000,000 ($243,000,000).

For bibliography and further developments, see *Reparations, German, and *Conference on Jewish Material Claims.

[Harry Knopf]