Chateau confiscated by Nazis ordered returned

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- The state must return a chateau and other real estate confiscated by the Nazis to one of Europe's noble families, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The court upheld a previous ruling that the chateau in Opocno, 75 miles east of Prague, should be returned to Countess Kristina Colloredo-Mansfeld, court spokesman Pavel Stanek said.

An adjacent park, a house in the town's square and other property also will be returned, Stanek said.

The family acquired the chateau, whose origins date from the 11th century, in 1635. The property was confiscated in 1942 during the country's occupation by Nazi Germany, when the family was labeled an enemy of the Third Reich.

After the end of World War II, the family was accused of collaboration with the Nazis, and in 1945 their property was confiscated again by what was then the Czechoslovak state.

Although the family claimed their property at the time, the confiscation was reconfirmed after the communists took over the country in 1948, and the family emigrated.

The court in Hradec Kralove, 60 miles east of Prague, upheld a ruling that the postwar confiscation was unlawful because Colloredo-Mansfeld did not lose his Czech citizenship and did not collaborate with the Nazis.

"Justice is a great thing," Ruzena Valaskova, who represents Colloredo-Mansfeld in the Czech Republic, told the CTK news agency. "When something was stolen it has to be returned."

Kristina Colloredo-Mansfeld, who lives in Greece, Austria and Opocno, lodged her first claim to the family property in 1995, six years after the end of communist rule and three years after Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Some 10,000 acres of forest land and several houses already have been returned to her.

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