Courtesy Reuters

Enemy-Owned Property: Restitution or Confiscation?

IN THE present world conflict the warring governments have appropriated private property widely on the ground that it is enemy-owned. The United States, Great Britain and the countries of Latin America, as well as Germany, Italy and Japan, have taken possession, under various statutes and administrative decrees, of large amounts of property -- bank deposits, factories, shares of stock, corporate bonds and patents -- belonging to private citizens or corporations of the nations with which they are at war. Germany in particular has by various devices caused the transfer of untold wealth from the unfriendly hands of loyal citizens in Poland, Holland, France, Belgium and other subjugated territories to German concerns or to collaborationist elements. These transfers, often made under the guise of sales, mergers and other voluntary transactions, have resulted in the concentration in Nazi hands of a great part of the productive wealth of the European Continent.

The ultimate disposition of the property thus seized or transferred will constitute one of the problems of the peace settlement. In the midst of the larger and more spectacular political issues then being discussed it is not likely to attract much public interest or attention, especially since it necessarily is enveloped in technical details which tend to obscure the basic issues involved. The purpose of this paper is to present the problem in simple terms and to point out the desirability of early agreement upon the principles to be applied.

There can be little doubt that in the event of an Allied victory an effort will be made to undo the seizures and transfers effected by the Axis Powers. An intention to this effect was announced by the Governments of the United Nations in a declaration issued in the early part of January 1943, in which they state that, they intend to do their utmost to defeat the methods of dispossession practiced by the governments with which they are at war against the countries and peoples who have been so wantonly assaulted and

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