If you have been told that regaining possession of Property in the Czech Republic is no longer possible or too late - you may have been given wrong information.
New Civil Code in the Czech Republic
From 1 January 2014 there will be fundamental changes to the Civil Law in the Czech Republic which may affect the property rights of those who are the subject of Search & Unite missing person searches.
Assuming that the Czech government will not delay the coming into force of the New Civil Code, your attention is drawn to the following:
- Abandonment: Where an owner fails to exercise rights of ownership over real property for a minimum of 10 years, there will be a presumption that the said property has been abandoned and it shall become the property of the Czech Republic. In the absence of a definition under current law of abandonment, this is very difficult to prove. The New Civil Code defines abandonment and lists the circumstances in which real property reverts to the state.
- Prescription: Despite the absence of proof of title, title to real property may be acquired when the de facto occupant of the property has exercised rights of ownership without interruption for a minimum of 20 years. Under current law, a de facto occupant of real property must provide documentary evidence of good will (e.g. an invalid purchase contract relied on in good faith).
- Acquisition from bad title: Even where registration was based on fraud or a mistake, title to real property may be acquired from a registered proprietor where the transferee believes that the transferor is entitled to do so. Under current law, the lawful proprietor is entitled to reclaim the property even where the transfer based on bad title has been completed (e.g. where despite the existence of legitimate heirs, the Czech Republic disassociates itself from the property and then sells it to a third party.
The above provisions affect the rights of persons and their heirs, registered as owners of real property situated in the Czech Republic who are unaware of its existence .
As we have been doing for nearly 20 years, we can act on your behalf to prevent the transfer to others of property legally owned by your family
Summary - Can claims for property in the Czech Republic be made today?
There is no simple answer to this question. It depends entirely on what is recorded at the Land Registry about the CURRENT owners of the property.
If a relative of yours is still shown as [part] owner, then it is a matter of inheritance, and you have a chance. [Nationality is irrelevant].
If only other people / organisations are shown as owners, than it WAS a matter for a Restitution claim - and that is no longer possible to claim.
It will cost a small fee which must be paid in advance.
If a Land Registry search shows that is a matter of Inheritance, that fee will be held to your credit in a Pro-Bono [no-win no-fee] arrangement to make that claim.
If the search shows that this woould have been a matter of a Restitution claim, than fee is spent, and from your point of view "lost"
If you have been told that regaining possession of Property in the Czech Republic is no longer possible or too late - you may have been given wrong information.
Even more so, you may know of people who were told "officially" that they have no way of regaining that which was theirs many years ago - please note that they too may have been misled.
( NB: From hereon we have deliberately left the "ancient history" as the historical situations may still be of interest in the future )
In July 2003 we were involved with a property claim in Prague in which the Prague authorities had attempted to refuse to accept a claim under inheritence procedures for a property stolen by the Regime in the past.
The Prague Municipality had transferred the property into their own ownership.
The Municipality had argued in this case, that according to the Agreement between Czech Republic and USA the property claim was settled as the family received some financial compensation.
A similar case had then taken to the Czech Constitutional Court on the basis that the US-Czech Compensation agreement itself cannot serve as basis for transfer of the property to the Municipality. This opinion was in compliance with the Czech Republic Constitutional Court statement which was issued in autumn last year.
What this means is that for people who have an INHERITANCE RIGHT for property in the Czech Republic, the fact that some compensation had been received by the family may NOT mean that they cannot get that property back now.
Not all similar claims are similar. It is absolutely vital that a thoroughly experienced, specializing Czech Lawyer, carefully and diligently sifts through the intricacies of a claim!
beyond 25 May 2001
[Please note that despite the passage of the deadline, much of what follows is still true and current. The following information was assembled in 1999/2000. Much of the information is still important and therefore, despite the passage of the deadline set by Czech restitution legislation, we have decided to retain it here.
For those who only need the shortened - current - information we have now added this section which deals with the POST 25 MAY 2001 position]
There is NO DEADLINE at this stage for the claimants whose family members of the 1940's are STILL REGISTERED as owners in the Land Cadaster. (Land or Property Register)
While initially we believed that 25 May 2001 will bring to an end ALL claims, this has turned out to be quite different.
Our searches, remarkably, have not come to a halt with the arrival of 25 May 2001. Somehow Law in the emerging Eastern Europe is not as clearly defined as elsewhere, and they have decided that there should be a stay of execution for Inheritance cases. Despite a lot of searching we have failed to establish where these rules come from. So, we continue to seek individuals whose families lost their homes in the Czech Republic in and after 1940. Some of them STILL have a chance to get them back. People whose family forebears are still recorded in the Czech Land Registry can continue to claim the former homes back. Only for those whose property was stolen, AND the Land Registry altered to insert the name of another entity (such as the Nazi Treuhand, or a Czech Government National Administrator - or whoever else - these are what are termed "Restitution cases" - and for these the axe has fallen. The Czech State now perpetuates the thefts.
A Political campaign has been started. The Czech Government is at one and the same time attempting to become one of the new Members of the European Union in the first wave of the European Enlargement, while clearly and brazenly enforcing Restitution Laws which run directly contra to the European Human Rights Legislation.
It is hoped that The Czechs will change their Laws which discriminate between people depending on their Nationality. On the other hand it is hoped that entry into the European Union will not be permitted while such injustices are enshrined in Czech Law.
The Endowment Fund for Victims of the Holocaust which was established in July 2000 has finally began to work and is calling for registration. Please note - there is a deadline for registration! Applications, including appendices, must be submitted by 31st December 2001 - (see details below under "2. Information on the Commission dealing with Mitigating Some of the Property Injustice Caused to Holocaust Victims" (later called the Czech Endowment Fund for Victims of the Holocaust)
A deadline for claim submissions existed
25 MAY 2001.
The Czech authorities had declared that after that date no more claims for Real Estate would be considered.
In practice claimants now have to establish whether they have an Inheritance or a Restitution claim (details below)
No Restitution claims are being accepted now - EXCEPT for possible payments from the Czech Endowment Fund for Victims of Holocaust - see details below
This date arises from Act No.172/1991 of May 25, 1991 which deals with "The transfer of State-owned property to the possession of Cities, Towns and Localities"
In accordance with this Law (or Act) Claimants were given 10 years to solve their claims and this time period will expire on May 25, 2001.
After this date all such cases will be considered as CLOSED.
As a Czech has put it so aptly, we are talking here about: "Inheritance and claim for property surrender, in compliance with the period which is stipulated due to the prescription stipulated in the Act on Municipality Property No.172/91 Coll."
(see Statement below regarding other assets)
Search and Unite was created in order to help the many who are still hoping to find someone believed to have survived the ravages of World War II. As such we were always looking for people on behalf of people. If you have had a look at the rest of these pages, you will have read about some of these cases.
Some time ago we were approached by a Prague Property Company. They had found someone's name still on the Property Register in the Czech Republic. This person could reclaim his Real Estate if they only knew where he was. They asked us to find him. The only details we had was a a very common name and a vague address from 1947. After some searching we found the person concerned (or rather the son, as the father had died in the meantime).
As soon as we gave the Property Company the address of the person sought, we were given three more names of potential claimants.
At that stage we flew to Prague to see who these people were and what this was about.
We returned having met with them and the lawyers working on these cases. We were most impressed.
The Company was originally a regular Real Estate Company. Today it also specialises in cases of Restitution and Inheritance claims. It has made it its business to seek out one-time owners of what is now Czech Republic State Property and offers to ensure that the property reverts to its original owners - or to their heirs.
Things have evolved since then. Today we have two types of clients. On the one hand we continue to have those people who have been identified as potential claimants by the Property Company in the Czech Republic.
On the other hand we have people approaching us with more or less detailed information about property formerly owned by their families.
Clearly, there is a cost associated with the research into whether or not a claim is feasible
Normally when the Property Company takes on a claim case, it sees to all that is required including the commercial, financial and legal matters.
The Property Company works on a Contingency basis, so that the client needs to spend no money on a case other than providing such documentation which needs to be sourced outside the Czech Republic.
Most of the cases the Property Company handle are those in which the Property Company itself has established that there is a good chance of success to re-claim a property. The Property Company then searches for the heirs to the property and enters into a contract with them to represent them.
In some cases clients approach us. The Property Company calls these "introduced cases". Here the Property Company has no knowledge initially of the details of the property sought, or of the likelihood of success of a claim. The Property Company needs to establish that particular requirements exist, which any claim must meet.
Because the Property Company needs to spend time on evaluating such "introduced cases", it asks that these "introduced clients" pay for the investigative stage. This payment depends on how easy or difficult it is to gather all the information for a comprehensive legal evaluation of the case. The amount charged for this initial investigation is offset fully where the Claim is possible, and a Contract is signed by which the Property Company handles the claim on behalf of the client.
You will find it stated that "the term for claims has expired in 1996."
Be aware, that we are talking here about claimants who have already put in a claim in the past but who have been rejected for some reason and want to re-claim now.
Absolutely new claims are IMPOSSIBLE since August 31, 1996.
This is true for Restitution claims, not for Inheritance claims. Cases brought by "Introduced clients" need to be evaluated. It is true that it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to retrieve the property if there was no claim raised before 1996, especially when the claimant or his family is not Jewish, and not a Czech national and citizen. There is the Czech Law number 212/2000, (details below) but even the approval of this law does not mean that all cases can be solved easily.
Each case is different - that is why our Lawyers need to evaluate them.
The Company enters into a legal Contract with the Claimant(s) by which the Company carries all the costs of such a claim in the Czech Republic. At the time when the property reverts to its former owner, it is paid a pre-agreed percentage of the value of the property.
The only costs incurred by the claimants during the claiming stage is that of obtaining any required documents from outside of the Czech Republic, such as proof of identity and birth, marriage and death certificates.
The Claimant, once their claim is recognised, can of course decide what they want to do with the property - for example whether to use it for themselves, sublet it, re-develop it or just sell it. Clearly the Property Company is hoping to continue to deal with such transactions at that time and is able to assist in obtaining planning permissions, development loans and all other matters which are normally associated with the day-to-day work of a Real Estate Service.
Claims can be divided into two groups:
1. Inheritance Proceedings
2. Restitutional Claims
The main difference between these two groups is that
Inheritance Proceedings consist of claims for properties which have not been forcibly taken from the original owners, but for some reason their heirs have not raised a claim for re-possession.
Here it is necessary to prove the status of a legal heir.
The possibility of winning these cases is 99%.
The situation with Restitution Claims is much more complicated.
Here one needs to retrieve Property "acquired" or otherwise "transferred" by the State Authorities in the past.
The chance to re-possess these varies. Likelihood of success of Restitution Claims can only be gauged theoretically before they are actually tried before a Czech Republic State Official, or the Courts.
The restitution law in its actual wording enabled the restitution of real estate property only, or its financial compensation under the condition that the real estate property does not exist or new buildings were constructed there or it is on possession of another person.
Therefore it is not possible to obtain restitution for shares, movables or insurance as there is no legal basis for it and the restitution acts relate only to the real estates.
The restitution periods for claiming the property (with the only exception of agricultural property) have lapsed already. The prerequisite for claiming agricultural property is the Czech nationality.
Another difficulty here is that we need to prove the Czech Citizenship of the original owner which is not always possible.
The Act No. 212/2000 Coll. concerns restitution claims and relates only to the movable property and agricultural property.
Persons born in Czechoslovakia and have CZ birth certificates, are entitled to investigate whether they have the Czech citizenship acknowledged today. There is a certain procedure to determine this. In respect of the restitution claims, Czech citizen must make the claim for the property and the citizenship of the original owners is not relevant for the restitution claims. So even if it was a Czech citizen owning the property in the past, it is not relevant for the entitlement of its successors nowadays.
Readers may be interested in the following announcements and elaboration of the legal position for claims in the Czech Republic:
Copyright (c) 2000 Radio Prague (Vysilani do zahranici CRo)
Radio Prague E-news
Written/read by: Libor Kubik
The lower house of the Czech Parliament is preparing to debate legislation which would allow the return of assets and property confiscated from Czech Jews and their organisations during the Nazi occupation of this country in World War II.
Our correspondent says the bill is very likely to be passed smoothly because of a consensus that runs across the Czech political spectrum.
The bill envisages the return of all state-owned property seized from Jewish individuals, foundations and organisations in the period from September 1938 to May 1945.
2. Information on the Commission dealing with Mitigating Some of the Property Injustice Caused to Holocaust Victims
(later called the Czech Endowment Fund for Victims of the Holocaust)
by Tomas Kraus
Federation of Jewish Communities,
In December 1998 the Czech Government established a "Commission for Mitigating Some of the Injustice Caused to Holocaust Victims".
(later called the Czech Endowment Fund for Victims of the Holocaust)
This Commission which is consisting of representatives of various Ministries and Governmental institutions on one side and the representatives of our Federation on the other is trying to find solutions in all commodities of the so called Holocaust Era Assets. The Commission's team of historians and archivists has already published a report on Nazi looted gold and precious metals, reports on real estate and looted art are being prepared. At the same time the Commission is trying to find solutions which would enable various claimants from the Czech Republic and also from all around the world to recover ownership of their lost properties.
In cases of individual restitution the Commission has stated that the legislation which was valid until August 1996 enabled a number of claimants the return of their or theirs family possession. The Commission is fully aware of the fact that the approach of various courts was not always favourable and in many cases very formalistic. However, the Federation can not interfere into independent justice and into the verdicts of individual courts. The only solution is to continue the suit to the highest juridical authorities in the country or at international level. The Czech Constitutional court has issued already several verdicts which were meeting general justice.
Though the Commission found the restitution legislation appropriate, it focused on two groups of claimants who's claims could not be at all raised - the former owners of agriculture land and properties and the claimants without the Czech citizenship. For the first group the Commission has prepared a law which enables to raise respective claims. This law has been approved by the Czech Parliament in June 2000 and was published in the Collection of Laws under the No. 212/2000. The Act No. 212/2000 Coll. It is a restitution claim law, and relates only to the movable property and agricultural property. Claimants who have Czech citizenship can approach the respective current owner and, if the owner is not ready to return the property, the claiment can approach the court. In complicated cases we recommend to hire a Czech Law firm.
In June 2001 a web page was created which deals with the financial compensation of victims who have so far not been able to claim any compensation. These are funds set aside by the Czech Government in a so-called "Czech Endowment Fund for Victims of Holocaust" Its introduction reads as follows:
The Endowment Fund for Victims of the Holocaust was established in July 2000. It is operated by the Federation of Jewish Associations in the Czech Republic and for the purpose of mitigating property injustice cause to Holocaust victims. It has been supported by the Government of the Czech Republic. details are available at
It should be noted that
1. Registration is required by 31 December 2001
2. While they have made a call for registration, they have not published anything about the likely AMOUNT of COMPENSATION which will be paid out.
3. The fund requires all applicants who make claims for property stolen from their families by previous regimes - notably the Nazi Government in 1940 - to quote precise Cadastral (Land Registry) details of the property.
This requires application and costs to local Czech Registry Offices,(there is no central Land registry information) and it is doubtful whether these formalities will be dealt with expeditiously by the offices concerned.
4. Application forms must be filled in in Czech or English, but information is also available in German, Hebrew, French and Spanish.
Application forms can be obtained from
- The web site http://www.fondholocaust.cz
- by e-mail to email@example.com
- Phone: +420 2 2426 1615
- Fax: +420 2 2426 2563
- Any Czech Embassy
In an interview given to the press by JUDr. Tomas Kraus, the Executive Director of the Federation of the Czech Republic's Jewish Associations, Mr Kraus said they estimated that they would receive about 3000 applications. It would be very interesting to learn where this estimate came from!
Search and Unite has written and voiced it's doubts to the Compensation Commission office in Prague.
Here is the response received:
Subject: Re: EFVH
Date: Tue, 7 Aug 2001 16:23:35 +0200
Dear Mr Lewin,
I will now try to answer your respective questions.
Re: 1) What the Czech Registry Offices really need is to get a clearly
specified description of the property or land owned by the claimants. We do
not consider it a problem for the Offices not to meet the deadline of 31
December 2001. If there is any problem with the deadline for finding the
documents, in this case it is possible to send the application form in time,
even without these documents, with an appropriate explanation (see the
application form). We will then try to obtain them from here.
Re: 2) In no case do the claimants lose any of their rights by submitting
their claims (see the Information for Claimants).
Re: 3) + 5) We do not say anything about the amounts of compensation as we
are unable to judge the number of claimants. There is a certain set amount
of money to be distributed (see the Information for Claimants), the exact
amount will be set by the Board of Directors after the evaluation of all
application forms. The number of applications mentioned by Dr Kraus is
probably his personal judgement.
Re: 4) If the claimants lack any proof of the value of the property, they
can send the application form without these proofs and we will try to
provide the value judgement from here.
Re: 6) The applications will be examined by the Board of Directors (spravnirada).
We are enclosing the names of its members in an attachment called
"Vypis NFOH". Unfortunately, it is only available in Czech (taken from http://www.justice.cz).
I hope that the answers to your questions will be of use to you.
Thank you very much for contacting us.
Restitution of stolen Art.
The law enables also the return of artworks confiscated during the Holocaust if they are currently owned by a Czech state institution, e.g. Gallery or Museum. This claim has to be addressed directly to this institution. The claimant is not obliged to have Czech citizenship. An INTERNET site with works of art seized by the Nazis during the Second World War has been set up by the Czech Ministry of Culture.
It is a searchable database on the Internet for looted artworks presently held by Czech museums and galleries. See: http://www.restitution-art.cz (In the "acquired from" field you will not find the original owner, but apparently the Nazi owner.
To see the whole list, place an asterisk (*) in the artist and work fields and leave the rest blank). The project follows the introduction of a law allowing direct descendants of those who lost art treasures - including non-Czech citizens - to reclaim them.
Culture Ministry spokesman Pavel Jirasek is quoted as saying that people will have until the close of 2002 to make a claim.
Confiscation by the Protectorate
A list of people whose property was confiscated by the occupation authorities in the territory of the so-called Protectorate is available on the Internet at http://www.hrad.cz/kpr/holocaust/seznam_uk.html We quote here the introduction to this web site: You have in front of you a list of people whose property was confiscated by the occupation authorities in the territory of the so-called Protectorate. It is copy of what was retrieved from both Gestapo and the Central Association for Private Insurance in the Protectorate documents, which were sent to insurance companies during the period 1940-1944.
The insurance companies were obliged to report back to the Property Office, or the Gestapo, concerning insurance policies of people who were on the list. In the case of life insurance, policies were confiscated and their cash value was transferred to occupation authorities.
According to our findings the list is not complete. We know that quite a large group of people is missing - mainly those whose property was confiscated by the Office for Jewish Emigration. This computerized version of the list is one of the results of the group working on holocaust-era insurance, which has been occupied with this task since
Restitution for Life Insurance Policies
For the second group of claimants, those without Czech citizenship, an extra-legislative solution has been prepared. Namely, the Government transferred 300 mil. CZK into a Foundation established by our Federation with the participation of the Government.
This Foundation will reserve approx. One third of this sum for the purposes of this group. It will assemble all claims which would have met the conditions required by the expired Czech legislation and were not compensated before (e.g. based on bilateral agreements concluded by Czechoslovakia and other countries as compensation for property nationalization in). Unlike the legislation the condition of Czech citizenship will not be required by the Foundation's regulations. After evaluating the quantity and quality of claims the Foundation will grant every claimant a financial sum, however not as a compensation but rather as a symbolic gesture. The procedure is in the process and the first payments can be expected in the first half of 2001. 3. Information about the process of restitution of the Jewish property in the Czech Republic
By JUDr. Tomas Kraus
Federation of Jewish Communities,
Czech Republic At first we have to clarify that our Federation is not able to lead any cases of property restitution. We were "only" involved in political solutions, i.e. the respective changes in the Czech legislation. Every case has to be then handled individually, if possible by a Czech lawyer or law firm. Nevertheless the FJC has its representative in the Government Commission for the problematic of mildening some of the property injustice caused to Holocaust victims which goal is to address property restitution questions facing victims of Holocaust. The Commission was set up in the end of December 1998. However, there is an information we can give you right away - the condition of the Czech permanent residence of the claimant was indeed cancelled by the Constitutional court. However, there is another condition which remains in the law and that is the claimant's citizenship of the Czech Republic. There are cases of former Czechoslovak citizens who escaped the Nazis and never lost the Czechoslovak citizenship although they have been residing abroad. Crucial for the case is, however, that according to the restitution legislation the term for claims has expired in 1996. Therefore all claims cannot be filed upon the restitution law but upon some other law e.g. as heritage. Obviously there is never a guarantee of success, but we will always do our best detective work on your behalf. 4. The following message was published by Anne Webber, Commission for Looted Art in Europe: From: Anne Webber
Subject: [gersig] RE: claims for property in the Czech Republic
Sender: Anne Webber
To: "German Jewish SIG"
Under Act 212 of 23 June 2000 of the Czech Republic, there are two deadlines:
The deadline for claims for agricultural land, or for buildings of agricultural purpose on agricultural land, is 30 June 2001.
The deadline for claims for works of art in the Czech Republic is 31 December 2002.
The claims for other real estate expired on 31 August 1996, and no new claims can be made, although any claims made up till that date will continue to be processed. Claimants prior to August 1996 had to have Czech citizenship. For those who were excluded from claiming because of this requirement, a Foundation is being established by the Federation of Jewish Communities with government participation. The government will transfer money into the Foundation, out of which a financial sum will be given to individual claimants, "not as compensation, but rather as a symbolic gesture". This procedure is currently being established and the first payments can be expected in the first half of 2001.
Details of the application procedures will be published internationally.
I hope this clarification is helpful.
Anne Webber Commission for Looted Art in Europe London firstname.lastname@example.org 5. An interesting article by James Pitkin has appeared in THE PRAGUE POST (http://www.praguepost.cz/) of January 10-16 2001 issue. It discusses efforts made by the Czech Authorities Seeking the owners of Art currently in the possession of Czech Institutions. 6. In November 2000 the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic issued the following "Brief information about possibilities of compensation" 1. Unfortunately there is no form of retribution for the losses of family members during the Holocaust. 2. movable property We have now new information that according the negotiations in Germany there is a suggestion to compensate Holocaust survivors for lost family property (accounts, gold, valuables, company equipment, furniture etc.).
For Jewish claimants residing in Western Europe the contact address is:
Conference On Jewish Material Claims Against Germany
60487 Frankfurt am Main
Germany. Contact address for claimants from the USA and other continents (except Europe):
Conference On Jewish Material Claims Against Germany
Regional Office Washington
1752 N Street NW
USA 3. life insurance
Concerning life insurance confiscated during the WW II. there is the ICHEIC, International Commission for Holocaust Era Insurance Claims in USA. There is also the "Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation" in USA negotiating with Swiss Banks. Contact address:
International Commission - ICHEIC
Wall Street Station,
New York NY 10268 , USA
Web Site: www.icheic.org 4. labor and forced work Please contact following organizations:
In the USA:
Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany
15 East 26 Street, Suite 906, New York, NY 10010
fax: 001 212 679 2126, e-mail: info@ClaimsCon.org in Germany (for Western Europe):
Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany
Dr. Karl Brozik
Sophien str. 26
D-6487 Frankfurt am Main
tel.: + 69 97 07 0841, fax: +69 97 07 0811
e-mail address: email@example.com 5. Bank Accounts which disappeared during the war
The only way to find some information in the Czech Republic is to contact
Dpt. No 44 of the Finance Ministry, the full address of which is as follows:
Ministerstvo financi CR
odbor c. 44
118 10, Praha 1
Czech Republic However the money was mostly confiscated by the Nazis and the claims are accordingly dealt with by German authorities. Compensation or restitution claims are often complex matters which should be dealt with by qualified lawyers who must thoroughly examine the legal history of the property concerned, identify what claim can be asserted, if any, what are the relevant procedures and respective authorities etc..
If you care to make contact with us, we will gladly refer you to specialist Attorneys who have experience in making such claims in the Czech Republic.
If you wish to contact us, please email davidlewin [ at ] btinternet [ dot ] com .