Osen LLC in the News
Court Ups Compensation for Nazi Victims
A German appeals court has ordered greater compensation for the American heirs of a Jewish businessman forced to sell his company stock under the Nazis' "Aryanization" program -- a ruling that could set a precedent for dozens of others, their attorney said Wednesday.
The Federal Administrative Court ruled July 17 that the heirs of businessman Bernhard Hirschmann should be compensated based on the fact that he and his brother lost their company, not just shares, said Berlin attorney Robby Fichte, who represented Hirschmann's heirs.
The ruling increases the compensation about 20-fold to some eruo 700,000 (nearly $1 million), Fischte said.
"I'm happy that after so many years the material consequences of the injustice can be mitigated," heir Peter Fenner of Ohio said in a statement. Fenner -- a grandson of Bernhard -- brought the suit with his sister, Ruth Fenner-Barash of New York state.
The federal court confirmed the ruling but said no details would be released until the full written verdict is delived in six to eight weeks.
The defendant in the case, Germany's Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues, said it could not comment on how many other cases could be affected by it until it saw the entire written decision.
"We lost, but we don't know why yet," said spokeswoman Ellen Haendler. "So I can't say anything more until we have the ruling."
Fichte estimated the number in the dozens, however.
"It definitely sets a precendent -- that's why we had the opportunity to appeal to the Federal Administrative Court; we are one of many cases, but it's the first to be decided," he told The Associated press. "The authorities haven't decided many cases yet because they were waiting to see what to do."
Under the Nazi program to strip Jews of property, Hirschmann and his brother were forced in 1935 to sell their stock in the former Deutsche Kabelwerke AG, a wire and cable manufacturing company that they founded in the late 1890s, to Dresdner Bank. Both brothers fled Germany.
The Bank then sold the shares at a profit to a company deemed to be "Aryan" by the Nazis.
At the end of the war, the company -- based in Berlin with factories in the surrounding region of Brandenburg -- was nationalized by communist authorities.
While people in similar circumstances with assets in West Germany received compensation in the 1950s and 1960s, the Hirschmann family only received a payment of 125,000 German marks per brother from the Dresdner bank -- a mere fraction of what their holdings in the company were worth, Fichte said.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the family began pursuing full compensation.
Based on a formula that calculated compensation for having lost stocks under the Nazis, the Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues ruled that the claim was worth euro40,000 for each brother -- less than the Dresdner Bank had already paid.
But the federal appeals court ruled that the compensation had to be based on a different formula to pay for the two brothers having lost their company, not just the stocks, Fichte said.
The federal appeal's court ruling awards Bernhard Hirschmannn's heirs euro700,000, or about euro980,000 with interest, Fitche said.
The money will come from funds set aside by Germany to compensate Nazi-era victims.
AP Associated Press, July 22, 2009 - David Rising