SIGNIFICANT VICTORY FOR WERTHEIM HEIRS
Oradell, NJ (October 26, 2005)-- In a significant victory for heirs of what is likely the largest fortune ever plundered by the Nazis, the German High Court in Leipzig, Germany, yesterday rejected the appeal of the German Corporation, KarstadtQuelle, and formally recognized the claims of heirs to the famed Wertheim Department store fortune.
KarstadtQuelle, Germany's largest retailer, has no right to appeal the decision, which is the first of multiple claims over more than 24 acres of property in downtown Berlin once owned by the Wertheim family. KarstadtQuelle had claimed to be the rightful heirs to the propertly -- a claim that was thoroughly rejected by the lower court in March of this year. In fact, in an unusual move, the German High Court yesterday specifically made reference to the applicability of its decesion to other Wertheim family claims working their way through the German legal system.
It is expected that the total value of Wertheim family claims will exceed US $200 million. The claim at the center of today's decision was to land that was once the site of Wertheim's historic downtown Berlin department store. In recent years, the parcel had been the site of Tresor, a Berlin nightclub situated in the basement vaults of the department store, located near Potsdamer Platz in central Berlin.
The proceeds of the sale of the parcel, estimated at more than $20 million, will now be given to Jewish Claims Conference (JCC), the group that helps distribute Nazi reparations through its Goodwill Fund. It is expected that approximately 80% of the funds will be returned to the Wertheim heirs.
"I have always had great confidence in the German court system, and this faith has been redeemed," said Barbara Principe, a New Jersey woman whose grandfather was one of the founding members of the Wertheim company. "This is another significant hurdle to restoring my family's legacy."
"We're very pleased by the German High Court's ruling and look forward to closing an important chapter in the Wertheim family's historic 60 year legal struggle for justice," said Gary M. Osen, the Wertheim family's U.S. attorney said. "With legal rights to the property now firmly established, it is our hope that KarstadtQuelle will now feel a moral responsiblity not to drag out the calims to former Wertheim land any further."
"KarstadtQuelle should do what is right and give up this fruitless fight over property that never belonged to them in the first place," Ms. Principe added.