FILE PHOTO - A hand out photograph showing ' Himmler's Hoard', found on the outskirts of Wewelsburg, Westpalia, close to a concentration camp. Holocaust researchers have launched a multi-billion dollar treasure hunt for art treasures looted by the Nazis in World War II (Photo: Reuters)
A prominent US law firm, which represents Nazi victims' heirs and specialises in art recovery, has called on President Barack Obama to put pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to return €1.6bn owed to Jewish families from World War II.
In a letter exclusively seen by IBTimes UK, Rowland & Petroff, on behalf of a collection of other law firms, has called on the President's help after only €700m (£587m, $963m), out of €2.3bn, worth of property had been returned to Nazi victims following Germany's passing of a restitution law in 1990.
Written by the law firm's co-founder, David Rowland, the victims' representative says that Rowland & Petroff has enclosed correspondence with Merkel "regarding the failure of Germany to compensate a large part of the Nazi victims who lost property in eastern Germany during the Nazi era."
"Unfortunately, of the €2.3bn in property belonging to Nazi victims, which the Claims Conference obtained, it has only returned €700m to Nazi victims and their heirs who lost this property.
"Despite lengthy negotiations to resolve this issue, the Claims Conference refuses to fairly and adequately return this property to the heirs of the Nazi victims who lost it.
"Instead they have set up a new €50m fund which pays pennies on the dollar for a 100% release of claims.
"Most of the heirs of Nazi victims who are entitled to this property are very elderly and have no other choice than to accept this unfair settlement."
Rowland's firm is also involved with the high-profile process of reuniting Jewish families with 1,500 pieces of art, worth €1bn, that were confiscated by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s.
German authorities seized the treasure trove of fine art between 2011 and early 2012 but it was not until October this year that prosecutors confirmed the discovery.
As part of a tax evasion probe into Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive son of an art dealer in Munich, prosecutors unearthed paintings by Matisse, Picasso and Chagall.
Due to the art being seized via a tax evasion investigation, German privacy law states that authorities are prohibited from disclosing the details of probes related to taxation.
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