Heirs sue Germany over ‘stolen’ Nazi gold

The heirs of four Jewish art dealers have brought a case against the German government in the USA over the so-called “Guelph treasure”, a €260-million trove they say was confiscated by the Nazis in 1935.

Heirs sue Germany over 'stolen' Nazi gold
A 12th-Century reliquary from the Guelph treasure at the Berlin Bode-Museum. Photo: DPA

Boston lawyer Nicholas O'Donnell accuses the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK) alongside the German government of having failed to respond to his clients' claims of ownership over the treasure, and has brought a case before a court in the US District of Columbia.

The heirs, Alan Philipp from London and Gerald Stiebel from the USA, say their ancestors were forced to sell the collection of medieval devotional objects in 1935 for an extremely low price.

“If Germany argues otherwise, it would still be explicitly endorsing [Hermann] Göring's plundering in 2015,” they wrote in the allegations, referring to Hitler's right-hand man and creator of the Gestapo secret police.

SPK president Hermann Parzinger said he was “astonished” by the case, saying that he believed years of research into the treasure's history would convince the American court.

Researchers from the SPK and the Limbach Commission into Nazi-stolen art, led by a former Supreme Court judge, declared in 2014 that there was no evidence the Guelph treasure was in fact confiscated.

Philipp and Stiebel call the investigation a “whitewash” in their suit, saying they felt like they were experiencing the same discrimination as their ancestors did during the Nazi period.

Markus Stötzel, a German lawyer acting on the pair's behalf, said that the records clearly show the art dealers were the legitimate owners of the treasure in 1935, having bought it for 7.5 million Reichsmarks in 1929.

He says that Philipp and Stiebel felt forced to bring the action in the USA, feeling that German civil law didn't offer a sufficient chance of making restitution for Nazi crimes.

SEE ALSO: Queries flood in over Nazi-era art hoard

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Police have no idea how stolen Dachau camp gate turned up in Norway

After completing their investigation, Norwegian police still have no idea how a iron gate stolen from the former Nazi concentration camp Dachau in Germany two years ago ended up in the countryside near a small village some 20km outside of Bergen.

Police have no idea how stolen Dachau camp gate turned up in Norway
The gate was found in an outside location in the Norwegian countryside. Photo: Politiet/Scanpix
The gate, which bears the infamous slogan “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work will set you free”), was recovered in December in Gaupås in southwestern Norway following an anonymous tip-off.
“We do not know the gate’s history. We have no information on how it ended up in Gaupås,” police inspector Paal Duley told Bergensavisen on Tuesday.
Duley added that no DNA traces were found on the gate. No arrests have been made. 
The person who provided the anonymous tip-off to police is unknown and no one else has stepped forward with additional information. 
The 100-kilogramme black gate was reported stolen by German authorities in November 2014, sparking an uproar, with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel calling the crime “appalling”.
The gate is a 1965 replacement to the original one at the entrance to the Dachau camp, which disappeared after World War 2. 
The Dachau camp, located just a few kilometres from Munich, opened in 1933, less than two months after Adolf Hitler became chancellor.
It was first used to incarcerate political prisoners but during World War 2, it became a death camp where more than 41,000 Jews were slaughtered before US troops liberated it on April 29, 1945.
Today some 800,000 visitors from around the world visit the camp each year.
Police in Bergen have contacted the Ministry of Culture to clarify how the port can be transported to Germany, where cultural authorities there eagerly await its return. 
“It is a relief to me that this original evidence of the Nazis' cynicism and contempt for humans has been rediscovered,” Karl Freller, head of the Bavarian Memorial Foundation, said in a December statement after the gate’s discovery.