Earlier this week, Dina Gold chronicled a difficult encounter at her first author event for Stolen Legacy: Nazi Theft and the Quest for Justice at Krausenstrasse 17/18, Berlin, a personal account of her restitution claim on a building built and owned by her great grandfather. She will be blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.
Inertia is a wonderful thing if you are a bureaucrat — and perhaps especially so if you are a German one responsible for a building once expropriated by the Nazis from Jewish owners.
Two years ago, then German Minister of Transport, Dr. Peter Ramsauer, asked one of his civil servants to write to me promising that he would arrange for a plaque to be affixed to the wall of a building once owned by my family.
“(Minister Dr. Peter Ramsauer) asked me to respond to your question. We are awake to the history of our office building at Krausenstrasse 17 – 20,” he wrote. “The historic events connected with construction and utilization of the building have been imparted by us to all our visitors… I do support your concern, to document the historical background outside for all visitors and pedestrians by a plaque fixed on the building. Especially, the remembrance to the expropriation of the Jewish owner Victor Wolff should be brought attention for the general public. Therefore, I’ll arrange for the plaque to be produced and affixed to office building. I hope I could satisfy your reasonable demand.”[sic]
Victor Wolff was my great-grandfather. The magnificent building, which in 2013 was part of the Ministry of Transport, had been the Wolff family fur business headquarters. They had lost possession in 1937 when the mortgage was foreclosed upon and the property handed directly to the Reichsbahn. In 1996 the German government restituted the building to my mother and her siblings and promptly bought it back off them, this time at the fair market price. A plaque commemorating the building’s history seemed a small token of recognition for what the family had been through. And Dr. Ramsauer appeared to agree.
In June 2014, after asking what progress had been made, I had another email, this time from a different civil servant, with the paltry excuse that the reason for the delay was that “responsibilities for the office building Krausenstrasse 17 – 18 changed. The new owner is the Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben (Federal Authority for Real Property Administration), Fasanenstrasse 87, 10623 Berlin. So the new owner has to decide the matter. Hopefully they support your reasonable demand so we did and the plaque will be placed on the building as soon as possible,” she cheerfully added.
Still no action followed. So I wrote again asking for an update. In August 2014 I received a response from a third civil servant, saying he was aware of my request, and that“the Institute for Federal Real Estate (Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben) — are responsible for the management of that building since July 2014. We will review your request and inform you as soon as we have new information available.”
In order for justice to be done, it must be seen done. So what is this endless prevarication? Why am I still waiting?
Dina Gold is a former BBC investigative journalist and television producer. She is on the board of the DC JCC and currently serves as co-chair of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. She is a senior editor at Moment magazine.
Dina Gold is a former BBC investigative journalist and television producer. She is on the board of the DCJCC and currently serves as council member of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. She is a senior editor at Moment magazine. Dina has been on tour all over the USA with the USHMM.
Dina Gold is available to be booked for speaking engagements through Read On. Click here for more information.