The Wertheim Property

Wertheim property

A pre-war photograph of the original Wertheim department store at Leipziger Platz.

The Wertheim Department Store group was among the largest and most distinguished Jewish department stores in pre-Hitler Germany. Wertheim owned a number of stores, including the famous Wertheim Department Store at Leipziger Platz in Berlin.

Three Wertheim brothers had majority ownership in the department stores. As early as 1933, Jewish department stores became the focus of Nazi boycotts and the Wertheim companies were eventually “aryanized.” The company that acquired the Wertheim companies after the war went on to become one of Germany’s most successful retailers, and was acquired in 1993 by Karstadt.

After German reunification, the Claims Conference, in its function as Successor Organization, filed claims for the Wertheim property. In 2001 initial rulings were in favor of the Claims Conference. The German government and Karstadt appealed the decision to award properties to the Claims Conference. In 2003, after a number of approaches by the Claims Conference, the German government dropped its appeals. Karstadt refused to do so.

In October 2005, the German High Court rejected Karstadt’s appeal of a March 2005 decision that awarded proceeds to the Claims Conference from the government’s sale of a Wertheim property. In this earlier but related case, the government had sold the Leipzigerstrasse property in the former East Berlin to a private investor in 2001. The property had formerly housed a business office for several branches of the Wertheim company.

On December 1, 2005, Karstadt announced its intention to withdraw claims to most of the Wertheim properties.

In 2006, as recorded in the financial statements, the Claims Conference had revenues regarding Wertheim claims totaling approximately $25 million.

On March 30, 2007, the Claims Conference reached a settlement with Karstadt primarily regarding the “Lenné Triangle,” an area in central Berlin that was subject to an exchange of land before German reunification together with some other properties. In 1991, the German government gave the land in the “Lenné Triangle” to Karstadt, which sold it to the Beisheim Group. The land has been developed to include office and retail space and a Ritz-Carlton hotel. Under the settlement, Karstadt paid the Claims Conference €88 million. Arrangements for payments to certain heirs were also put in place.