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PRINCZ v. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY

December 23, 1992

HUGO PRINCZ, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SPORKIN

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

 This case is presently before the Court on defendant Federal Republic of Germany's Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff, Mr. Hugo Princz, filed this action to recover damages sustained by him as a result of his internment by the Nazis during World War II. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is denied.

 I. Background

 The background facts to this case as alleged by the plaintiff are as follows.

 Mr. Princz is a Jewish American who was taken into custody by the Nazis during World War II and placed in a concentration camp for the duration of the War. At the time of his internment, Mr. Princz was an American citizen and an unemancipated minor, living with his mother, father, two brothers and a sister in what is now Czechoslovakia. His father, a naturalized American citizen, was engaged in business activities in Czechoslovakia. In 1942, approximately ninety days after the formal declaration of war between the United States and Germany, Mr. Princz and his family were arrested by the Slovak Fascist police, turned over to the German SS, and sent to Camp Maidanek in Poland.

 Almost all Americans captured by the Nazis were released in a prisoner exchange sponsored by the International Red Cross. Mr. Princz and his family, all American Jews, were not released.

 The atrocities committed by the German Government against the plaintiff and his family cannot adequately be described in words. Mr. Princz believes his parents and sister were killed in the concentration camp known as Treblinka. The German Government sent Mr. Princz and his two brothers to Auschwitz. Mr. Princz and his two brothers were then "leased" by the German Government to the German chemical cartel I.G. Farben and enslaved at a facility close to Auschwitz called Birkenau. During the course of his enslavement at Birkenau, Mr. Princz witnessed the intentional starvation of his two brothers. Mr. Princz was subsequently sent to the Warsaw Ghetto Camp, forced on the death march from Warsaw to Dachau, and enslaved at the Messerschmidt underground airplane factory. Mr. Princz is the only member of his family to survive the barbaric acts of the Nazi regime.

 When World War II ended, Plaintiff was rescued from a freight car, packed with other half-dead concentration camp survivors, by U.S. troops. Most of the survivors were sent to Centers for Displaced Persons. Seeing that Mr. Princz had "USA" stenciled across his uniform, the U.S. troops sent him to an American military hospital instead.

 For many years Mr. Princz has attempted to obtain a pension, as provided to thousands of other Holocaust survivors, or some other form of reparations from the West German government. The first German compensation act, providing for pensions for Holocaust survivors was passed in 1952. In 1955, Mr. Princz filed a claim for a pension. The United Restitution Office (URO), which was handling the disbursement of the pension funds, advised Mr. Princz that he was not eligible for a pension because he had been an American citizen at the time of his enslavement.

 In 1965, the law providing for pensions administered by URO was amended. According to Mr. Princz, the 1965 amendment only extended the period during which survivors could file a claim through 1969. It did not expand the pool of eligible claimants. *fn1" For this reason he did not file a second claim pursuant to the 1965 law.

 Subsequently, the Federal Republic of Germany set up a hardship fund of $ 1.2 billion to assist Holocaust survivors who, for excusable reasons, had not filed a timely application for a pension under the earlier laws. This fund is administered by the Jewish Claims Commission in New York; the German Government has no control over eligibility determinations or disbursement of the hardship funds.

 Mr. Princz did apply for a hardship payment from this fund. However, his counsel was advised that these funds are being reserved for genuine hardship cases. Since Mr. Princz has been able to work as a grocery clerk, and his wife has worked as a bookkeeper, he is not eligible to receive a hardship payment.

 In 1984, Plaintiff sought the assistance of Senator Bradley of New Jersey, who subsequently enlisted the assistance of the U.S. Department of State. The German government formally advised the State Department that Mr. Princz did not qualify for any government-sponsored reparations. The State Department then attempted to obtain a so-called ex gratia reparation payment from the Defendant government, which declined to make such payment.

 In 1986, counsel for plaintiff attempted to obtain an ex gratia payment from Germany. The Defendant's Embassy in the United States verified that Mr. Princz was a Holocaust survivor and requested that the German Foreign Ministry in Bonn submit such a request to the German Parliament. On December 8, 1987, plaintiff's counsel was advised that the German Foreign Ministry had declined to submit such a request.

 According to counsel for Defendant at the December 11, 1992 hearing before this Court, Mr. Princz's situation was presented to the German Supreme Court, which held that the 1969 statute of limitations for filing pension claims was final, thereby precluding consideration of another application for a pension through the URO process at this time. *fn2"

 On March 15, 1992, a treaty concerning the unification of Germany between the United States and Germany became effective. To confirm an understanding reached between the United States and Germany in discussions leading up to this treaty, Germany's Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs sent a letter, dated 18 September 1990, to U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, in which he assured Secretary Baker that, after unification, the Federal Republic of Germany would "seek to provide expeditious and satisfactory resolution of claims of Jewish victims of the Nazi regime against the German Democratic Republic shortly after unification." This letter was attached to the State Department's September 24, 1990 report to the President on the treaty. Plaintiff has not received reparations as of this time. *fn3"

 Plaintiff believes that he is one of only two U.S. nationals who survived internment during the Holocaust. The other was captured in Holland and is receiving a pension. *fn4"

 II. Jurisdiction

 The sole issue before the Court at this time is whether or not the Court has jurisdiction over the Federal Republic of Germany to hear this case. Defendant, in its Motion to Dismiss, argues that since plaintiff's claim does not fit any of the exceptions to Congress' broad recognition of immunity to other nations contained in the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1330 et seq., plaintiff's complaint must be dismissed.

 Finding that Congress intended to enact a comprehensive statutory scheme governing U.S. courts' jurisdiction over foreign nations, *fn5" the Supreme Court in Argentine Republic v. Amerada Hess, 488 U.S. 428, 109 S. Ct. 683, 102 L. Ed. 2d 818 (1989), held that the FSIA is "the sole basis for obtaining jurisdiction over a foreign state" in U.S. courts. Jurisdiction in such a case "depends on the existence of one of the specified exceptions to foreign sovereign immunity" found in the FSIA. Id., at 688 (citations omitted). This is the clearly stated rule. *fn6"

 This case does not merely involve a violation of international law. This case involves an American whose most fundamental rights of citizenship and as a human being were violated. Mr. Princz was interned by the Nazis. He was enslaved by the German Government and German companies. He witnessed the tortured deaths of his two brothers and lost both parents and his sister to German brutality as well. To describe Auschwitz, one of the two concentration camps where he was interned, as a human butcher shop would be generous. What individuals like the plaintiff in this case suffered in the Holocaust were acts of ...


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