Surprise verdict returns land confiscated after war
Under the post-war Beneš decrees, Czechoslovakia’s ethnic Germans lost both their citizenship and their property. Among them were the Walderodes, an aristocratic family who lived in north Bohemia. Now, in a verdict that surprised many, the heiress to the family’s fortune has won back rights to a forest in the area. It measures only a quarter of a hectare, which may not seem like a big deal. However, Monday’s ruling could affect other restitution cases.
“The Supreme Court based its decision on a certificate of Czechoslovak citizenship which was granted to the Walderode family in 1947. There was other evidence as well that during the occupation of Czechoslovakia, Karl des Fours Walderode was loyal to the Czechoslovak people, even when he served as a soldier in the Wehrmacht for about a year.”
“The verdict of the Supreme Court applies only to this particular case. It can serve as a guideline for other restitution cases decided by courts of lower instances, which may proceed in the same way in similar cases. But other cases, even those involving the same people, can of course end up very differently.”
The Supreme Court’s Peter Knoetig also stresses that Monday’s ruling does not deny the validity of the Beneš decrees. In the case of Karl des Fours Walderode, he says, they were simply not applied correctly.