On April 17th, the German Federal Ministry of Justice proposed a bill to facilitate the enforcement of claims for the return of cultural property unjustly seized during the Nazi era. New provisions include information requests and rules regarding statutes of limitations.

©Rui Alves/Unsplah

The proposed legislation seeks to streamline the process for reclaiming Nazi-confiscated cultural property and enhance legal protections for claimants. It acknowledges the historical injustices committed during the Nazi era and aims to provide a more effective framework for addressing restitution claims.

Key provisions of the proposed legislation include:

Right to Information (Auskunftsanspruch):

The bill introduces a right to information under the Cultural Property Protection Act (Section 48a KGSG-E), allowing claimants to obtain information from individuals involved in the sale or transfer of cultural property confiscated during the Nazi era. This information aims to assist claimants in verifying ownership and provenance of the cultural artifacts.

Limitation of Prescription Defense:

The bill restricts the prescription defense against claims for the return of cultural property (Section 214 (1) sentence 2 BGB-E). A possessor may only rely on prescription if they acquired the property in good faith, meaning they were unaware of any issues regarding ownership at the time of acquisition.

Special Jurisdiction in Frankfurt am Main:

The bill proposes concentrating the jurisdiction for claims related to Nazi-confiscated cultural property and associated information requests at the district courts (Landgerichte, Section 71(2) No. 7 GVG-E) to address the complexity of such cases. According to the new provision, the district courts are competent for such lawsuits, regardless of the specific value in dispute (Sections 23 No. 1, 71 (1) GVG).Additionally, it establishes a special jurisdiction in Frankfurt am Main for these claims, providing accessibility for claimants, especially those residing abroad.

Repayment of Restitution Payments:

The bill includes provisions for the repayment of restitution payments made under post-World War II restitution laws if the property or its equivalent is subsequently recovered. This aims to ensure fairness in cases where compensation was previously provided for confiscated property.

*We will keep a close watch on the progress and provide further updates.