Claim for confiscated property worth $7 million re-opened by court ruling in Czech Republic

The heiress to a noble Czech family has been given permission to continue to try to claim back property worth $7 million, including a chateau, all of which were seized after the Second World War.

Johanna Kammerlander, an heiress of the Walderode family, has been battling through the courts to retrieve the Hruby Rohozec chateau in Turnov and other property in Semily, Jablonec and Liberec, all in the north Bohemia region.

Her mission took a setback when a district court in Semily, east Bohemia, refused to agree that the property should be returned to her ownership. But now a higher court has overuled the judgement.

The decision opens up the claims system again as there are many families throughout Eastern Europe who had property seized during and after the Second World War and now want it returned. It also has major implications for the current owners of these properties.

In this case the Hruby Rohozec chateau is currently owned by the Czech National Heritage Institute while the other property and land belong to the town of Turnov, the Lesy Ceske State Forestry Company, the Czech Land Fund, the Management of Roads and Highways and private companies.

Kammerlander claims that the property was confiscated when the post war president Edvard Benes issued decree siezing all property that was owned by Germans or German sympathisers. She has already had one parcel of forest land returned to her ownership.

Her ancestor Karl des Fours Walderode, an ethnic German, was stripped of his family property under the Benes decrees in 1946. However the Czechoslovak authorities returned Czechoslovak citizenship to Walderode in 1947. But he did not manage to get his confiscated property back as emigrated after the 1948 communist coup and was thus stripped of his citizenship again.

But the Interior Ministry returned the citizenship to Walderode in 1992 and he applied for the return of his family property. But witnesses appeared saying that he had collaborated with the Nazis during the war and that he was a member of the pro-Nazi Sudeten German Party.

He died in 2002 and it has been left to his surviving relatives to take up the challenge of claiming the property back. The Czech Supreme Court has already return some forest land in the north Bohemian village of Žďárek on the basis of the 1947 certificate of citizenship and took into account that although Walderode served as a soldier in Wehrmacht for about a year during the occupation of Czechoslovakia he was loyal to the Czechoslovak people.