Important Update from Nicholas O'Donnell on Nazi Restitution Cases in Guelph Court of Appeals Ruling
23.07.2018 | Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation
Partner Nicholas O’Donnell was interviewed by the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation in English about the importance of a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirming the right of the heirs to the so-called Guelph Treasure (known in German as the Welfenschatz) to seek restitution in U.S. courts for the value of the treasured art collection. You can listen to the interview here at approximately minute 38.
The case is important because of its interpretation of what constitutes a “taking in violation of international law,” the first element of the FSIA section at issue. The D.C. Circuit held that the Nazis’ looting of art is part and parcel of their genocide, and plaintiffs do not have to prove that the theft of their collections was itself part of an act of physical violence. The point is that the Nazis were bent on destroying Jews’ ability to exist economically from the very start, not at some later date when the murder of Jews became more substantial. In various points of the motion practice Germany suggested that 1935 predated the Holocaust.
Under the law imposed by the Allies after the war, and consistent with the so-called “Collective Declaration” by Germany and its federal states in 1999, it is the SPK, not the heirs, that will now have to prove that the 1935 transaction was fair, rather than requiring our clients to prove that the sale was coercive.