German Diplomats Notifying Thousands They Can File Property Claims With PM-Germany, Bjt
CHICAGO (AP) _ German diplomats are trying to get word to thousands of German-Americans who have only 10 days left to reclaim land seized decades ago by East Germany’s communist government.
Charged with the task are the 10 German consulates scattered in the United States and the German Embassy in Washington.
The German consulate in Chicago has mailed hundreds of letters to English and German-language newspapers and radio stations in its nine-state region, where a large concentration of German descendants live.
Other consulates, such as the one in Boston, have attempted to spread the word by contacting German clubs and organizations.
″What we are telling people is that they better claim the property as soon as possible,″ said Cornelia Dautel, a German vice consul in Chicago. ″If they wait until after October 13, they will have much legal difficulty trying to reclaim the land.″
East Germany and West Germany were joined Wednesday after months of negotiations. Earlier this year, East Germany passed a law permitting people to reclaim land that was seized after the communists came to power in 1949.
The Chicago consulate has received about 200 telephone calls from people who hope to regain property they or their families owned before World War II, Deputy Consul Karl Schon said.
Elisabeth Jacoby of the Chicago suburb of Mount Prospect is one of them.
A resident of East Germany until she was 18, Jacoby crossed the border into West Germany in 1951. She left behind her parents, her sister and a childless uncle who owned a prominent hotel in Wolmirstedt, a small city 45 miles east of the West German border.
The government converted the hotel into a store in the 1960s, then tore down the building in 1972.
Almost 40 years after their uncle’s death in 1951, Jacoby, her sister and a cousin who lives in West Germany finally have hope of reclaiming the land on which the hotel stood.
″Before the borders came down and everything changed, there was nothing we could do,″ Jacoby said. ″We had given up hope.″
The government controls the land, which is now being used as a parking lot. But the women - as their uncle’s only heirs - are entitled to it under his will, Jacoby said Tuesday.
″Both my parents worked in that hotel,″ Jacoby said. ″We feel our family worked very hard for what they had and we should not let the East German government have it.″
Jacoby’s claim is one of more than 1 million - most from West German residents - that the East German government has received since it allowed such claims to be filed.
The claims will be evaluated by the local governments where the property is situated. Those who prove they are entitled to the property will be compensated for the land or receive title to the property if possible, Schon said.
″It’s question of proof,″ Schon said. ″If a person can establish through the real estate register or other records that he is entitled to the property, then the law says it must be returned to him.″