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Court Throws out Restitution Claim by Ethnic Germans

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a land claim by ethnic Germans who lost homes in Poland during World War II. The decision was welcomed by the leaders of both countries.

Two boundary stones at the German-Polish border in Ahlbeck, northern Germany

The land claims have caused tension between Poland and Germany

The European Court of Human Rights rejected Thursday a land claim by ethnic Germans who lost homes in Poland during the Second World War, a decision welcomed by leaders of both countries whose ties have soured over the issue.

The claim was filed by a private company, the Prussian Claims Society, representing 23 Germans. It accused Poland of violating the rights of Germans who were expelled from their pre-war homes when borders were redrawn in 1945 at the end of the war.

Judges: Poland can't be held accountable

Judges at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg however ruled that modern Poland bears no responsibility for the expulsion of ethnic Germans by the Soviets after October 19, 1994 because it had no governmental control of the land.

The court also said it had no jurisdiction to rule on the issue because the expulsion of the Germans from their Polish homes took place before either country had signed the European Convention on Human Rights.

According to the Court, Poland thus has no obligation “to enact laws providing for rehabilitation, restitution of confiscated property or compensation for property lost by the individual applicants.”

Land claim cause of friction

The land claim has been a source of friction between the two countries, with Polish politicians accusing the group of Germans of trying to reverse the outcome of World War II.

While Berlin never viewed any validity in the claim, it was unable to forbid the lawsuit, a position German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier confirmed upon hearing the ruling.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed the ruling, saying it confirmed Berlin's own position that there were no outstanding property issues from the Second World War between the two nations.

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