Daily Israel Report

Czech Court Rejects Jewish Family's Restitution Claim

Highest court in Czech Republic confirms the rejection of a restitution claim by family of a Jewish man who owned a snap button factory.
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 5/3/2014, 1:12 AM

Holocaust Memorial
Holocaust Memorial
Flash 90

The Constitutional Court in the Czech Republic, the country’s highest court, has confirmed the rejection of a restitution claim by the descendants of a Jewish man who owned a snap button factory that was taken over by the Nazis and then nationalized, The Associated Press (AP) reported on Friday.

The court confirmed its 2010 verdict, which overturned a 2009 Supreme Court ruling and all previous rulings of lower courts that found in favor of three relatives of Zikmund Waldes, who owned the Koh-i-noor factory in Prague when the Nazis seized it in 1939 during their occupation of then-Czechoslovakia.

In addition, the heirs will not get back a collection of some 20 paintings that were housed in the plant, according to AP, which saw a copy of the latest verdict.

The verdict, which is final, said the legal complaint by the heirs was "clearly baseless" because it didn't contain any new arguments.

The factory was nationalized after the war in 1945, and after the fall of communism the state sold the factory to a private owner in 1994. No compensation was ever paid to the family.

The Constitutional Court ruled in 2010 that the heirs have no right to claim the property because according to Czech law only what was seized after the communists took power in 1948 can be returned, according to AP.

In recent years, some countries have returned assets that belonged to Jews and were stolen during the Holocaust.

In April, Vienna's Philharmonic Orchestra returned a painting that was stolen by the Nazis to the descendants of its rightful owners.

The 1883 painting "Port-en-Bessin" by French artist Paul Signac, was confiscated from owner Marcel Koch in 1940 in France's Jura region, and given to the Philharmonic after it performed in the region.

In March, France returned three paintings seized by the Nazis to their rightful owners,  the tip of an iceberg in a country where nearly 2,000 such artworks remain unclaimed.

Last year, France returned seven paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries to the heirs of two Jewish families whose artworks were stolen during World War II.

In 2012, a 500-year-old painting auctioned by the French government during the Nazi occupation in World War II was returned to a Jewish family who proved it was sold illegally.

The issue of Nazi-looted art has been in the headlines lately, particularly since a trove of over 1,400 looted paintings was found in the Munich apartment of reclusive collector Cornelius Gurlitt.

Germany has been sharply criticized for its "scandalous" handling of the art finds, as news of the discovery was only made public last November through a news report. Following the criticism, Germany created a site to facilitate the return of the art by increasing access to images of the pieces.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)