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July 30, 2014 / 3 Av, 5774
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German Jewish Family Fighting 22 Years to Reclaim Its Land

German-American non-Jewish attorney Peter Sonnenthal and his family, which has Jewish roots (his grandmother was Jewish and perished in Auschwitz) have been fighting for more than two decades to reclaim lucrative properties stolen from them under the Nazi regime, Spiegel reported, adding that Sonnenthal continues to face legal hurdles in trying to restore this legacy.

Sonnenthal, who worked in the 1980s for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), was feared and loathed by swindlers. For the past 22 years, he has been using his tenacity and legal skills fighting in German courts for the restitution of property in the German state of Brandenburg, just outside Berlin, that belongs to his family.

At stake are 250 acres of prime real estate in the upscale Berlin suburb of Teltow, some 1,000 properties altogether, worth millions of euros.

Sonnenthal’s court battles began in 1991, when he was 37, and his case has since made its way through a maze of German courts, starting with the local and state offices for unresolved property issues, up to the Brandenburg Higher State Administrative Court, then five hearings before the German Federal Administrative Court, then the German Finance Ministry, then it was finally appealed before the German Federal Constitutional Court, Germany’s highest judicial body.

Despite minor victories, Spiegel remarks, Sonnenthal has repeatedly run into obstacles over two decades of litigation.

Sonnenthal is angry, to say the least. “Historical facts are being denied, the law is being abused, and the Nazis of Teltow are being vindicated after the fact,” he says.

According to Sonnenthal, everything has to be contested in court and absolutely no concessions are made. “This is offensive to the family,” he says. “Our property was stolen, and now we have to justify ourselves.”

Robert Unger, whose law office has been representing Sonnenthal for years, says that he has never experienced a case like this. “The town of Teltow’s claim that – after 60 years of living and developing their land in Teltow – the family voluntarily decided to transfer their entire property to a Nazi is absurd and grotesque. It’s a disgrace,” he says.

Teltow’s mayor Thomas Schmidt contends that his town does not have a political agenda in the case. He notes that a forest has grown on the properties that Sonnenthal intends to reclaim, arguing that some of the land now falls within nature conservation areas. In other words, since the stolen properties had fallen into neglect in the hands of the thieves, to the point where they were reclaimed by the forest – the victims can no longer have a claim to them.

Even the ten or so properties Sonnenthal has been able to reacquire remained a source of frustration to him, since local courts won’t allow him to build duplexes on them. Once again, the joke is on him, comments Spiegel, but Sonnenthal isn’t laughing.

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6 Responses to “German Jewish Family Fighting 22 Years to Reclaim Its Land”

  1. "He notes that a forest has grown on the properties that Sonnenthal intends to reclaim, arguing that some of the land now falls within nature conservation areas. In other words, since the stolen properties had fallen into neglect in the hands of the thieves, to the point where they were reclaimed by the forest – the victims can no longer have a claim to them."

    Seems a lot like what Jews did to the Arabs in Israel.

  2. Maryann Ciesla Lempert says:

    This has happened throughout history. The "victor" gets the spoils. America did it to the Native Americans, the Nazis did it to the Jews, the Jews it to the Palestinians, etc. If it can be turned around, we would have to rewrite history.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What kind of chaplain is stogumber? The Bible tells us the land of Israel belongs to the Jew's. The UN did not create Israel. G-D created Israel. Mustafa has 22 nations, most created in 1918. Jew's have one Nation created by G-D.

  4. Les Le Gear says:

    The chaplain is an arab troll.

  5. Yechiel Baum says:

    YOU ARE MISLEAD TO STATE ILLOGICALLY THAT THE JEWS DID IT TO THE PALESTINEANS SINCE THE JEW NEVER LEFT THE JEWISH STATE OF ISRAERL. THE GAZAN SQUATTERS ORIGINATED FROM EYGPT, AFRICA AND JORDAN AND SHOULD NOT BE ISRAEL'S PROBLEM BUT RATHER YOUR PROBLEM.

    IN THIS STORY, SINCE THE GRANDCHILD HAD A HINT OF JEWISH GENES, THE GERMANS STILL DENY THE PORTION OF HIS JEWISH BLOOD BACK HIS PROPERTY SINCE THE GERMANS STOLE IT FROM THE JEWS. THEY FEAR THAT EUROPE WOULD HAVE TO RETURN ALL JEWISH PROPERTY TO THEIR HEIRS.

    SINCE ABBAS, HEAD OF THE P.A. DELCARED jesus to be a palestinen, hence the vaticans and all church properties must be open for palestinean squatters to take those over.

  6. Maryann Ciesla Lempert says:

    Yechiel Baum I was only referring to those Palestinians who were born and raised in Israel. These people had a choice to stay under Israeli rule or leave. They chose to leave. The ones who left are not entitled to get their property back. Also, in the time of Jesus there were no Palestinians as we know them. The word Palestine was used interchangeably with Israel and was a Jewish state.

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