A Czech court has rejected a restitution claim by the Jewish descendants of a man who owned a button factory that was taken over by the Nazis and then nationalized.
The Constitutional Court on Wednesday overturned a 2009 Supreme Court ruling and all previous rulings of lower courts that found in favor of three relatives of Zikmund Waldes, who owned the Koh-i-noor factory in Prague when the Nazis seized it in 1939 during their occupation of what was then Czechoslovakia.
The factory was nationalized after the war in 1945. No compensation was paid.
The ruling came just months after the Czech Republic and more than 40 other nations agreed in June in Prague on the first-ever set of global guidelines for returning the real estate stolen by the Nazis to its rightful owners or heirs.
The nonbinding rules call for more transparency and speed in the processing of restitution claims for property stolen between 1933 and 1945.
"This is an important case," said Tomas Jelinek, the former chairman of Prague's Jewish community. "It shows that it is impossible for Jews to successfully claim their property."
The Supreme Court had ruled that the three heirs should get half ownership of the factory's buildings and a valuable collection of some 20 paintings housed there. The current owners, who bought the factory from the state in 1994, challenged that ruling.
The Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday the heirs have no right to claim the property because only what was seized after the communists took power in 1948 can be returned.
Jirina Novakova, a Czech national who is one of the heirs said she was "very surprised" and "disappointed." Continued...