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U.S. Federal Appeals Court Says Guelph Treasure Case May Proceed Against Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz But Federal Republic of Germany Is Immune From Suit


Tom Kline, Eden Burgess

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently affirmed, in part, a trial court decision allowing heirs’ claims to the Guelph Treasure to proceed against the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (SPK), but not against the Federal Republic of Germany. Philipp v. Federal Republic of Germany and Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, No. 17-7064 (D.C. Cir. 2018), is the most recent U.S. court of appeals decision regarding a plaintiff’s claim to property from a foreign sovereign based on an allegedly improper Holocaust-related taking. The decision follows a recent pattern of allowing such cases to go beyond the motion to dismiss stage – which addresses only the legal sufficiency of the claimant’s allegations. The decision is noteworthy due to (1) the renown of the Guelph Treasure, also known as the Welfenschatz; (2) the distinction the Court made between the requirements for claims against a foreign sovereign as opposed to a foreign sovereign’s agency or instrumentality in control of the property; and (3) the Court’s resounding rejection of the argument advanced by Germany and the SPK that the taking, via forced sale to Hermann Goering in 1935, came too early in the Nazi era to be considered related to genocide.

Tom Kline 1

Eden Burgess 1

1 Thomas R. Kline and Eden Burgess, Attorneys at Law, Washington D.C., USA.


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