Philipp v. Federal Republic of Germany

894 F.3d 406 (2018)

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Philipp v. Federal Republic of Germany

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
894 F.3d 406 (2018)

Facts

Several Jewish art dealers formed a consortium and purchased a collection of relics and art known as the Welfenschatz. In 1935, Nazis coerced the consortium to sell the Welfenschatz to Prussia for 35 percent of its value. After World War II, the United State seized the Welfenschatz and gave it to Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (SPK), a Germany public agency that had been formed to acquire via succession all of Prussia’s cultural property rights. The SPK exhibited the Welfenschatz at its museum in Berlin. Eventually, Alan Philipp, Gerald Stiebel, and Jed Leiber (plaintiffs), heirs of the consortium members, sought recovery of the Welfenschatz from the SPK. Initially, the heirs and the SPK agreed to resolve their dispute before a German commission for the return of seized cultural property. However, when the German commission did not recommend the transfer of the Welfenschatz to the heirs, the heirs filed suit in the United States District Court against the SPK and the Federal Republic of Germany (defendant) for ownership of the Welfenschatz or $250 million. The SPK and Germany moved to dismiss the action, asserting immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (the act). The district court denied the motion to dismiss. Germany and the SPK appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Tatel, J.)

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