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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » October 22, 2008
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Court Rejects German Restitution Claims
October 22, 2008   
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The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Oct. 7 rejected a claim brought against Poland by Germans who lost property after they were forcibly resettled at the end of World War II. The claim was filed by the Prussian Claims Society in 2006 on behalf of 23 of its members-German nationals who were expelled from lands that Poland took over from Germany in 1945.

The plaintiffs argued the forced resettlement of German nationals in this period constituted ethnic cleansing, or even crimes against humanity, and violated article 1 of protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights which states that every person is entitled to the "peaceful enjoyment of his possessions." The Germans also argued that the Polish state had failed to introduce legislation allowing restitution or compensation for those wronged by the expulsions.

But the Strasbourg court said article 1 cannot be enforced if the events in question took place before the ratification of the convention on human rights. And Poland had no obligation under article 1 to bring in laws guaranteeing restitution of property or compensation for property lost by individuals.

The court also ruled that as a group, the Prussian Claims Society was not a victim of violations of the convention and therefore not entitled to submit claims to the European Court of Human Rights.

"The dismissal of the complaint by the Prussian Claims Society is an important signal and a good decision for both Poland and Germany," said Prime Minister Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel Oct. 9 at a press conference following talks. "We are both relieved that for the first time our talks do not have to involve the claims of the Prussian Claims Society, because the matter has probably now been definitively resolved in the way that both governments hoped," said Tusk. "The court's decision confirmed the German federal government's opinion that the claim was unsubstantiated," added Merkel.
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