• Germany edition
 
No wartime paperwork? Tear down your home
Liedtke in front of her home near Cologne. Photo: DPA

No wartime paperwork? Tear down your home

Published: 13 May 2014 08:58 GMT+02:00

Christa Liedtke, 75, decided to sell the half-timbered house near Cologne three years ago, after she began to find the steep stairs too much to handle.

She fell in love with the house in 2005 and poured thousands of euros into renovating it. "As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the one," she said. “In 2011 I wanted to sell it, with a heavy heart, and that’s when this all started.”

Local authority officials told her she had to pull it down because there was no planning permission to build the house in the first place.

Irmgard Mertins, widow of a Jewish banker murdered by the Nazis, had built the house in 1939, as a place to wait out the war. In the chaos of war she failed to apply for all the right paperwork.

Legal cases turning on the absence of key permission, and documents lost, falsified or destroyed during the war are quite common in Germany. They sometimes leave homeowners realising with dismay their wartime-built houses do not have valid planning permission.

"In the last eight years we have seen six such cases," Birgit Bär, a spokeswoman for the district authority Rheinisch-Bergischer Kreis told The Local.

She said in the aftermath of the war many small buildings were converted into flats to cope with the sudden housing shortage due to bomb damage - and very few of the new landlords bothered to secure building permission for the new properties.

When Liedtke and her daughter bought the building - paying €250,000 for it in 2005 - they were not made aware of the missing paperwork.

And Bär says the letter of the law must be followed in such cases.

"Entry in the land register is just proof of ownership of the property, not of permission for a building, and for that reason the relevant laws must be exercised," she said.

"We can't just close the book on this one because she's so nice."

Bär agreed the demolition order was a regrettable outcome, saying her office had explored all the legal alternatives, and had even offered Liedtke a special permit to continuing living in the house.

"Of course it's not sensible to demolish it completely; no one wants to do that," Bär told The Local.

"But we have to do it, because German building law is very clear on this point. Houses outside of built-up areas with no planning permission have to go."

Bär said her office wanted to see a new law requiring an expert notary to be involved in house purchases, to spare people buying buildings they will later be forced to have pulled down.

But she added: "We are grown up people, we are responsible for what we sign our names to. Absence of important documents should always ring alarm bells."

Liedtke's appeal against the demolition order is to go to the region's higher administrative court in Münster, but a date has not yet been set.

SEE ALSO: Germany debates draft law on Nazi-looted art

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Germany debates scrapping coal power
Photo: DPA

Germany debates scrapping coal power

After deciding to scrap nuclear power, Germany is pondering saying goodbye to coal, its biggest energy source but also its top polluter and main threat to ambitious climate goals. READ  

Hitler painting goes under the hammer
Photo: DPA

Hitler painting goes under the hammer

A watercolour painted by a young Adolf Hitler a century ago went under the hammer for €130,000 ($161,000) Saturday at an auction in the southern German city of Nuremberg. READ  

Germany to drop probe into US spying on Merkel
Photo: DPA

Germany to drop probe into US spying on Merkel

Germany is dropping a probe into the alleged tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone by US spies, due to a lack of evidence, magazine Focus said Saturday. READ  

German FM: Iran nuclear talks 'completely open'
Photo: DPA

German FM: Iran nuclear talks 'completely open'

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Saturday that the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with six world powers was "completely open". READ  

New bird flu case in Germany
Photo: DPA

New bird flu case in Germany

A worrying new strain of bird flu has been observed for the first time in a wild bird in northern Germany, the agriculture ministry said Saturday. READ  

Anti-foreigner protesters rally in Berlin
Photo: DPA

Anti-foreigner protesters rally in Berlin

About 500 protesters, among them neo-Nazis and angry local residents, protested in the German capital on Saturday against the construction of a centre for refugees seeking political asylum. READ  

Radicalized Germans join jihadist cause
Iraqi fighters near Tikrit. Photo: DPA

Radicalized Germans join jihadist cause

Hundreds of Germans have left their home country to fight alongside jihadists in Syria and Iraq, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. READ  

Germany frees female Russian spy early
Photo: DPA

Germany frees female Russian spy early

A Russian spy, jailed in Germany with her husband last year, has been freed early and allowed to return home, media reports said Friday, suggesting a possible prisoner swap. READ  

Germans face flogging after Singapore charge
Andreas Van Knorre being transported by Singapore police. Photo: Wallace Woon/DPA

Germans face flogging after Singapore charge

Two German men were charged Saturday with breaking into a Singapore metro depot and spray-painting graffiti on a train, offences punishable by jail time and flogging with a cane. READ  

Last-minute lawsuit filed over Nazi-era art hoard
The Museum of Fine Arts in Bern. Photo: Gian Ehrenzeller/DPA

Last-minute lawsuit filed over Nazi-era art hoard

A relative of late German art collector Cornelius Gurlitt lodged a claim Friday for his inheritance, a Nazi-era art hoard which he has bequested to a Swiss museum, a spokesman said. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Win your Christmas list: €250 at Marks & Spencer
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Sponsored Article
Ever wanted to try out home exchange?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1989
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Photo: DPA
National
Which city is the worst for car crashes?
Photo: DPA
National
The folly of the foreigner road charge
Photo: DPA
National
The man who stopped Germany's trains
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
How to replace retiring baby boomers
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
Finger slicer's insurance scam fails
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Want to study in Germany? These are the subjects to choose
Sponsored Article
International School on the Rhine: a legacy
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,226
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists
Click here for the full job description
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd