For immediate release:

Claimants Group Files Complaint with New York Attorney General against Claims Conference for Refusing to Return Stolen Property to
Nazi Victims’ Heirs


(New York, October 10, 2013) A claimants group, the Claimants Representative Committee (CRC) has filed a complaint with the New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, against The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc. (“Claims Conference”) for refusing to return property taken from Nazi victims in eastern Germany to the heirs of the Nazi victims who lost it.

Following the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the reunified Germany passed a law called the Vermoegensgesetz (“Property Law”) which permitted Nazi victims or their heirs to claim back property which was lost during the Nazi period (1933-1945) in the territory of the former German Democratic Republic. With the fall of communism, Nazi victims, or their heirs, were to finally be able to obtain back property lost due to Nazi persecution of Jews and other disfavored minorities.

However, following some forty years of communism, many of the Nazi victims, or their heirs, had either forgotten or did not know about their property and many failed to file claims for it within the tight deadlines prescribed by the German legislature. In order to avoid that the German government would become the heir of Nazi victims who failed to file claims to this stolen property, the German legislature gave the Claims Conference the position of legal successor under the Property Law to file claims for the return of this property lost due to Nazi persecution.

As a result, over the years, former owners and their heirs have had to battle the Claims Conference to force them to return their property. In response, in 1994 the Claims Conference set up a “Goodwill Fund” to restore such property to its former owners, or their heirs, however this was done with restrictions as to who would be eligible and payments were limited to 80% of what was obtained by the Claims Conference. In addition, after finally publishing what property it had obtained in 2003, the Claims Conference set a deadline of March 31, 2004 for Goodwill Fund claimants to file claims to participate in its Goodwill Fund.

Of the approximately 2.3 billion Euros in recovered Nazi victim personal property obtained by the Claims Conference, they have paid out approximately 700 million Euros to “Goodwill Fund” applicants. The remainder of the funds, approximately 1.6 billion Euro have been used or have been planned for use for charitable purposes other than to return it to the heirs of the Nazi victims who owned it (such charitable purposes includes, but is not limited to providing home care to elderly Holocaust survivors, although the German government currently has agreed to provide 1 billion USD in funds the Claims Conference’s program to provide home care services to elderly Holocaust victims).

Although the Claims Conferences objectives may be admirable, the heirs of Jewish victims who lost this property due to Nazi persecution are not amused that a Jewish organization, ostensibly formed to help them obtain justice with respect to this lost property, refuses to return it to them. Even after the Claims Conference set a deadline of March 31, 2004 for claims to be filed with them for participation in the Goodwill Fund, claimants continued to file claims and ask the Claims Conference to return their property.

In response to this problem, in 2011, the CRC, which consists of law firms and other business professionals who represent Nazi victims, was formed and has continued to meet with and press the Claims Conference to provide fair and adequate compensation to the heirs of the Nazi victims who lost this property. As a result, in late 2012, the Claims Conference announced a new program whereby the heirs of Nazi victims could file claims and obtain compensation from a 50 million Euro fund for “late” applicants, the so-called Late Applicants Fund (LAF).

However, whereas the former Goodwill Fund paid out 80% of what the Claims Conference obtained of the Nazi victims property, the LAF program pays out only 25%, but with an upper limit of 50,000 Euro per asset lost, and only if there are any funds remaining after the fund closes on December 31, 2014, would there be a final distribution of remaining funds to the heirs of the Nazi victims who lost this property. For this, the Claims Conference requires that the heirs give a release of all claims against the Claims Conference in order to obtain the initial payment.

The CRC believes that the Claims Conference’s LAF program’s payment limits are at best ethically questionable, and at worst, is an attempt to defraud Nazi victims of the property which was stolen from them by the Nazis. The CRC has thus filed a complaint with the New York Attorney General’s office, requesting them to investigate the practices of the Claims Conference in handling Nazi victim property. In accordance with a recent German administrative court decision, finding that the Claims Conference is a trustee for the Nazi victims, or their heirs, who lost this property, the CRC believes that the Claims Conference has a fiduciary duty to Nazi victims, or their heirs, to account to them for their lost property and to fairly and adequately return it to them. Accordingly, the CRC has also asked the New York Attorney General to take all necessary actions against the Claims Conference to protect the rights of Nazi victims and their heirs to obtain the return of their property from the Claims Conference.

For further information and to obtain a copy of the complaint filed with the New York Attorney General see CRC website at www.claimantsrepresentativecommittee.com or contact:

Claimants Representatives Committee (CRC):

US Office:                                                                                 European Office:

c/o Rowland & Petroff                                                          c/o Knauthe
2 Park Avenue, 19th Floor                                                Leipziger Platz 10
New York, New York 10016                                              10117 Berlin
USA                                                                                           Germany

Attn.: David J. Rowland, Esq.                                          Attn.: RA Dr. Harald Westphal

Email: David.Rowland@rowlandlaw.com                   Email: Westphal@knauthe.com

Tel. 212-685-5509                                                               Tel. +49-30-20670-0
Fax 212-685-8862                                                               Fax +49-30-20670-1800