Struggle for Reparations

ROM/BERLIN |

ROM/BERLIN (Own report) - Once again, an Italian court has overruled the German government's refusal to compensate Nazi victims. The Civil Court of Rome has ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by the son of Paolo Frascà, an Italian who had been arrested and tortured in early 1944 by the Nazi occupiers and was murdered on March 24, 1944 in the Ardeatine Caves alongside 334 other civilians. The Italian judiciary has thus, once again, rejected the German demand that private individuals not be allowed to file lawsuits against Germany in foreign courts because it would violate "state immunity." While Berlin is trying hard to prevent such lawsuits in the future, on Thursday, a court in Cologne is expected to pronounce its ruling in a lawsuit filed by a victim of the Nazi's forced Germanization. The plaintiff was kidnapped by the Nazi occupation forces - probably like hundreds of thousands of other children - from his family and was brought to the Nazi Reich for "Germanization." Commemoration initiatives are calling for a memorial ceremony.

Liable to Reparations Payments

The Civil Court of Rome has ruled that Germany must pay reparations to the heir of an Italian victim of the Nazis, Italy's daily La Repubblica reported last week. The lawsuit was filed by the son of Paolo Frascà, an employee in Italy's capital under Nazi occupation at the time, who had been arrested by the German police in early 1944, tortured in jail and murdered on March 24, 1944 along with 334 other civilians in the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome. As the court tersely notes, there can be no doubt of the German state's responsibility for the mass murder and thus also for Frascà's murder. As legal successor to the Nazi Reich, the Federal Republic of Germany must therefore pay reparations to his son. The fact must also be taken into account that his son Bruno was seriously affected as well: The Germans kidnapped him when he was hardly two years old.[1]

"State Immunity"

This ruling is ultimately based on the decision of Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation on October 22, 2014. Prior to that ruling, the German government had consistently rejected foreign court rulings according reparation payments for Nazi crimes, by arguing an alleged state immunity, according to which, even victims of serious crimes may not sue a state in foreign courts. In a controversial ruling on February 2, 2012, the International Court of Justice in The Hague had ruled in Germany's favor, even though experts on this issue - particularly in reference to crimes against humanity - uphold completely contrary positions. If this ruling would be maintained, Nazi victims would have actually no chance of receiving reparations, because German courts have repeatedly demonstrated - especially in cases of Nazi massacres in Greece - that they rule in favor of German state interests and against reparations payments for victims. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[2]) However, according to the above mentioned decision by Rome's Supreme Court of Cassation, the ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague is in contravention of Italian law and the Italian judiciary has the right to rule that Germany must pay reparations for Nazi crimes. This has already been applied in several cases. The Civil Court in the Italian town Sulmona, for example, ruled last year that Berlin must pay 5 million euros to the heirs of the victims and 1.6 million euros to the Roccaraso municipality for the 128 people massacred in this Abruzzo village.[3]

Cheap "Politics"

However, Berlin consistently refuses, insisting on an alleged state immunity and banking on a less expensive "political" solution. It was with this intent that the German-Italian Villa Vigoni Center held a little noticed "symposium" on developing "solution proposals" for reparations issues. (The Villa Vigoni is under the direction of Germany's Ministry of Education and Research with the collaboration of Germany's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in affiliation with Italy's Foreign Ministry.) The conference’s results were "discussed before and with an enlarged audience" - aimed at "durable interstate pacification."[4] The representatives of Berlin's legal position were extensively successful in imposing the "state immunity" argument, which excludes the right of private lawsuits against Germany. In addition, the experts participating at the conference recommended "the resumption of political negotiations between the two countries." They, in fact, call on the Rome government to oppose the Italian judiciary's reparation verdicts. Following two days of internal debate, the organizers also invited representatives of "the courts and ministries involved in the reparations cases" to a third day of debates - a striking attempt to directly influence Italy's independent judiciary and its sovereign government. However, as the most recent verdicts in Sulmona and in Rome demonstrate, Italy's judiciary is, at least in some cases, still oriented on the rulings of Italy's highest courts, rather than on the experts of the Villa Vigoni.

Abducted Children

Italy is not the only place, where reparations demands for Nazi crimes are being raised. They are being raised in Greece, in Poland - and in Germany as well. This Thursday, a verdict is expected to be rendered in a lawsuit in Cologne, determining whether victims of the Nazi's forced Germanization can expect reparations. During World War II, the Nazi occupiers had kidnapped children from the occupied countries, who, because of the physical (blond, blue-eyed) characteristics could qualify as "Germanizable," to the Nazi Reich, where they were held in so-called assimilation camps or in foster families, robbed of their identities - including being prohibited from speaking their mother language - where they were then submitted to the physical and psychological coercion of the so-called Germanization process. From 50,000 to 200,000 children - and possibly even more - had been abducted from Poland, Russia, Slovenia, and Czechoslovakia as well as Norway, to reinforce Europe's "Germanic" proportion of the population. Because toddlers were often kidnapped, many have probably never learned of their true origins; Others, who knew or learned of their abduction, were forced to undertake extensive research to even find out their original name, before "Germanization." Many still suffer the severe psychological consequences of their abductions.[5]

"No Criteria for an Offense"

The German government has explicitly refused to pay reparations to these kidnapped children. Years ago, Germany's Minister of Finances at the time (currently he is President of the German Parliament) Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) declared that "the fate of a 'kidnapped child submitted to forced Germanization" does "not, as such, fulfill the criteria of an offense under the reparations statutes." Germany's Ministry of Finance told Hermann Lüdeking, one of the victims of the Nazis' kidnappings - the Germans had stolen him from Poland - that his abduction to the SS' "Lebensborn" institution had not been an "illegitimate measure," such as those, the Polish population had had to endure during the period of occupation. Therefore, he is not entitled to reparations.[6] Lüdiking has filed suit against the German government. The verdict in his suit is expected this Thursday. On the occasion of the announcement of the verdict, commemorative initiatives are calling for a memorial ceremony.[7]

 

[1] Fosse Ardeatine, Germania condannata a risarcire familiari vittima. roma.repubblica.it 13.06.2018.

[2] See also Der Genozid, der nichts kostet.

[3] Michael Thumann: Alles schon bezahlt? zeit.de 24.01.2018.

[4] Remedies against immunity? Reconciling international and domestic law after the Italian Constitutional Court's Sentenza 238/2014. Villa Vigoni, 11.-13. Mai 2017.

[5], [6] Zitate und weitere Informationen nach: geraubte.de. See also Restitution and Geraubte Kinder.

[7] According to the announcement made by the Association "Robbed Children - Forgotten Victims," the ceremony will take place June 21 at 11:00 AM, in front of the Municipal Nazi Documentation Center of Cologne (Appellhofplatz 23-25). For more information see geraubte.de. german-foreign-policy.com documents the association's press release. See also Forgotten Victims.