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Guelph Cross. Credit: Wikipedia

Case of the Day: Germany v. Philipp

The case of the day is Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp (S. Ct. 2021). This is the case of the Welfenschatz, the Guelph treasure said to have been stolen by the Nazis from its Jewish owners. The claim was that Hermann Göring, one of Hitler’s most powerful ministers, had coerced the Jewish owners of the treasure to sell it for a fraction of its value to the Prussian government in the early 1930s. The heirs of the rightful owners and the government had agreed to conciliate the claim before the German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultural Property Seized as a Result of Nazi Persecution, Especially Jewish Property. The Commission found that the sale by the Jewish owners had not been coerced. The heirs, dissatisfied with the decision, sued in Washington. The jurisdictional question was whether the case came within the expropriation exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which provides that a foreign state is not immune from jurisdiction in cases “in which rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue.” Both the District Court and the DC Circuit had agreed with the heirs that Germany was not immune, and the Supreme Court granted Germany’s petition for review. (more…)

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