A very rare 1935 Mercedes 500 K Roadster owned by Dutch collector Frans van Haren has been declared the property of the heirs of the car’s first owners.
But the 500 K had spent most of its life in America after being brought back from Germany in 1945 amidst the chaos at the end of WWII, so there was probably no reason to believe the 500 K wasn’t a ‘safe’ buy. But it appears it wasn’t.
Last month van Haren made the fateful decision to show his new pride and joy at the Techno Classica car show in Essen where it was promptly seized by the authorities over claims by the original owner’s heirs. And now, bizarrely , the German courts have ruled that the 500 K belongs to the heirs of German Industrialist Hans Friedrich Prym.
The Mercedes was ‘acquired’, as many German possessions were, in the confusion at the end of WWII and after Prym had been imprisoned by the allies for his part in the German war effort. ‘Spoils of War’ is perhaps not a legal term, but compared to the pillaging of Europe by the Germans from 1939-1945 the acquisition of chattels from a defeated monster state and its servants seems very small recompense.
How German courts believe they have jurisdiction to make this ruling defies belief. However, if the Germans now believe their citizens are rightfully due the return of property taken after WWII then the other side of that is the acceptance of the need to realistically recompense those damaged by the Nazi war machine.
The allies, very sensibly, decided that the last thing Germany needed after WWII was to spend generations paying for the damage they had done. After all, the reparations burden on the Weimar after WWI was what caused the rise of the Nazi party and, ultimately, WWII.
So although notional recompense was put in place even that was effectively set aside by the 1953 London Debt Agreement, which is one of the reasons Germany is now the economic powerhouse it is. But surely, if Germany now believes it has the right to recover property taken after WWII, it must also accept the other side of that coin and pay for what it took from European citizens and nations?
Which should please the Greeks. It’s reckoned Germany owes $95 billion for the damage they did to Greece, which would sort out a few Hellenic bills.