French orphans of Nazi conscripts sue Germany

Hundreds of French orphans whose fathers died after being conscripted by Nazi Germany during World War II have lodged a case against the German government at the European Court of Human Rights.

“The German state has never taken account of, nor listened to, nor compensated the orphans for what they lost,” the group’s lawyer, Arnaud Friederich, complained after launching the legal challenge on Wednesday.

During World War II, Germany incorporated the eastern French regions of Alsace and Lorraine into the territory of the Third Reich and from 1942 more than 130,000 French were forced to fight for the German armed forces.

In 1981, Germany paid 250 million marks – the equivalent of €125 million or $196 million – to an association that undertook to compensate some 86,500 former conscripts and their widows.

Last year, the German parliament decided that this payment marked the end of Berlin’s responsibility in the matter, a decision which angered descendants of the estimated 40,000 Frenchmen who died fighting under the German flag.

Friederich said the surviving orphans had given up pursuing their claim through the German courts after several setbacks and would now seek to defend their rights under the jurisdiction of the European court.