MONTREAL — A group that advocates for Shoah victims whose property was confiscated in Nazi-occupied France is urging people who lost their livelihoods under the Vichy regime to file for state compensation after a precedent-setting ruling that redfined property to include non-physical assets.
Last June, the administrative tribunal of Paris overturned a 2004 decision by the Commission pour l’Indemnisation des Victimes de Spoliations (CIVS) – a government body set up in 1999 to handle cases of property seizure during the war – to deny compensation to a Jewish dental surgeon for the loss of his patient base during the war, when he was not able to practise.
The tribunal’s ruling set a precedent regarding the seizure of property from French Jews during World War II, because previously, claimants could only received compensation for the seizure of physical assets, said Jean-Jacques Fraenkel, a Holocaust survivor who, in 1999, founded La Coordination Off Shore, a group that fought the case in French court.
“That judicial decision opens up the possibility for all applicants, including Jewish families who had a business in France and therefore a clientele, to seek reparation from CIVS for loss of non-physical property such as a clientele, whether it was a cap manufacturer, a home-based tailor, a professional, a businessman,” said Fraenkel, whose family was killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau
In its ruling, the administrative tribunal said CIVS “had committed a clear error in judgment in rejecting the application for compensation for the loss of the above-mentioned non-corporeal property that had been taken from [the dentist]” – in other words, his patients.
Fraenkel is telling descendants of Jewish victims who had property seized – including those who have already been compensated and those who are preparing to seek compensation – to complete a supplementary application for compensation for their loss of clientele.
Survivors or their descendants who think they qualify for compensation as a result of last year’s decision can apply to CIVS themselves or have this done by a lawyer, Fraenkel said.
“It can be tricky,” he added, “because, despite the tribunal’s decision, applicants will also have to fight CIVS, which will do its best to reject any new claims. In order not to have their application rejected, therefore, they need meet the requirements set out by CIVS.”
Fraenkel and La Coordination Off Shore are making themselves available to people who want to seek compensation, to inform them of the steps necessary to make a claim.
For those who want help in preparing their case, the lawyers who worked on the earlier case will, within an agreed fee scale, take the files and plead the cases before CIVS.
“Eligible parties can send their file by registered mail to Maître Christian Roth, the lawyer who pleaded the case against CIVS before the administrative tribunal of Paris. He will study the file to verify that the application falls under the new precedent. Roth will then inform the applicants if their file is admissible,” Fraenkel said.
If it is, Roth will receive the fee agreed upon with La Coordination Off Shore, as well as a percentage of the resulting compensation.
For French applicants, the fee is about 700 Euros, or about $1,000 (Cdn).
“I think it will be less for those living in Canada,” Fraenkel said, adding that “all the preliminary verification to see if the file is admissible is free.”
Roth speaks French, English and German.
To reach him, write to Maître Christian Roth, PDGB Avocat, 174 Avenue Victor Hugo, 75116 Paris, France. Telephone: 33 1 44 15 21 21; fax: 33 1 44 05 21 02; e-mail: [email protected].
A longer version of this article appeared Feb. 14 in French in the Montreal edition of The CJN. Translation by Carolan Halpern.