• Germany's news in English
 
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
Women's World Cup
Löw defends Neid as critics circle after defeat
Silvia Neid congratulates England after Germany's 1-0 defeat. Photo: DPA

Löw defends Neid as critics circle after defeat

World Cup winning coach Joachim Löw defended his female counterpart Silvia Neid on Monday after Germany fell to a surprise 1-0 defeat to England in the third place play-off of the Women's World Cup. READ  

Greece crisis
Merkel calls for special eurozone Greece summit
Over 60 percent of Greeks voted 'No' in the referendum. Photo: DPA

Merkel calls for special eurozone Greece summit

Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the outcome of Greece's referendum with French President Francois Hollande in a telephone call Sunday evening, with both agreeing the 'No' vote must be respected, a German government spokesman said. READ  

Hamburg districts make UNESCO heritage list
An eightfold composite picture of different views of the Chilehaus (Chile House) and the Sprinkenhof in Hamburg. Photo: EPA/Christian Charisius/dpa/picture alliance

Hamburg districts make UNESCO heritage list

The UN cultural agency on Sunday designated Hamburg's historic maritime warehouse and business districts, boasting early 20th century German brick architecture, as World Heritage sites. READ  

Germany's AfD heads right with new leader
Frauke Petry, the new leader of the AfD. Photo: Lukas Schulze/picture alliance/dpa

Germany's AfD heads right with new leader

Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD) party ousted its co-founder and frontman Bernd Lucke on Saturday to elect a new leader from its right wing, signalling a shift in focus to immigration from its anti-euro origins. READ  

Extreme heat causes Autobahn to rupture
A fissure on the Autobahn near Heidelberg. Photo: DPA

Extreme heat causes Autobahn to rupture

The heatwave sweeping across the country may have Germans flocking to the sea this weekend, but the extreme temperatures are also causing Autobahns to break apart. READ  

Nazi island resort to be turned into luxury flats
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Nazi island resort to be turned into luxury flats

A vast Nazi mega-complex meant as holiday homes for German workers and later used by the Soviets as a Cold War barracks is about to be turned into luxury flats. READ  

Greece crisis
'Bundestag must vote on new bailout': Schäuble
A poster of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in Athens reads "For five years he has sucked your blood. Now tell him NO." Photo: DPA

'Bundestag must vote on new bailout': Schäuble

UPDATE: Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said on Friday that there would be no quick release of bailout funds to Greece after the country's referendum on whether to accept its creditors' terms on Sunday. READ  

Activists give Dalai Lama 80th birthday stamp
The new Deutsche Post stamp showing the Dalai Lama. Photo: DPA

Activists give Dalai Lama 80th birthday stamp

Pro-Tibet activists have created a new limited-edition stamp featuring the Dalai Lama to mark the Tibetan spiritual leader's 80th birthday. READ  

Women's World Cup
'Germany will crack England': top coach
Star striker Celia Sasic. Photo: DPA

'Germany will crack England': top coach

The manager of European champions FFC Frankfurt told The Local he expects Germany to beat England in the third place play-off in the Women's World Cup, and predicted his protege Celia Sasic will grab a goal or two. READ  

NSA surveillance scandal
Calls grow for govt to act on NSA spying
Chancellor Angela Merkel, the highest-profile German victim of NSA spying, speaking on the phone. Photo: DPA

Calls grow for govt to act on NSA spying

Green Party security expert Konstantin von Notz told The Local on Friday that Chancellor Angela Merkel is failing to restore faith in the German-US partnership following fresh spying revelations. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Police seize pensioner's WW2 heavy weapons haul
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
National
How do you do, Majestät?
National
Man defends right to pee in public with tear gas
Features
The Germans who won Waterloo for the British
Frankfurt
Should Germany ban circus animals?
Hamburg
Where people are having the most sex in Germany
Culture
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Not this student...
National
Dresden's three-decade-long red light
Politics
Upper house calls for gay marriage now
Berlin
Berlin named 3rd-best city worldwide
Sport
In search of the toughest firefighter
Business & Money
German firms shine for European engineering students
Gallery
Hitler's paintings up for auction
National
German's 70-year search for murdered US pilot
Politics
What the G7 leaders agreed at Elmau
Business & Money
What really makes Germans happy
National
Playmobil builder leaves worldwide legacy
National
The car share that became a drug run
Politics
What Snowden revealed to Germany
Rhineland
Why wolf cubs are being raised by hand
National
Hitler's booze cave found
National
Environment makes Germany worth living in
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

6,912
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd