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Monday, November 28, 2022

Will the European Court be able to rule on the return of Jewish property confiscated under the Nazi or Communist dictatorship?

By: Sara Kovač / Nova24TV

“After the verdict of the Celje court on the Moskovič villa, the European court could have the opportunity to rule on the return of Jewish property confiscated under the Nazi or communist dictatorship. Forced sale as robbery. Slovenia is a signatory of the Terezin Declaration on the restitution of Jewish property,” commented lawyer and historian Marko Štrovs in response to the recent decision of the High Court in Celje, which ruled that SDS president Janez Janša must pay 10,000 euros in compensation to the SD party due to statements about the ownership of Moskovič’s villa, where the SD party has its seat.

With its decision, the High Court in Celje fully upheld the default judgment of the Velenje District Court, which ruled that the president of the SDS must apologise via Twitter and, among other things, note that the villa belonging to the SD party was not stolen and that ownership was obtained in a legal way. This made the judgment legally binding.

The communists did not return the confiscated premises on Tomšičeva street to the state

It is common knowledge that the communist elite had very refined taste, so it is not surprising that they chose only the best for their politicians. Villas and houses were owned by force, some families were expelled, some were killed, or they ended up in prison for several years – only so that the revolutionaries could appropriate their property. Although, according to several lawyers, the story of Moskovič’s villa is clean according to the legislation of the time, the fact is that after the death of the entire Jewish family, the villa was sold under questionable conditions, nationalised, and used for the Communist Party.

Marko Štrovs, who at that time worked as the head of the pension sector at the Ministry of Labour, already told our media in the past that he witnessed how the then minister from the ranks of the Združena lista, Jožica Puhar, came to an agreement with Miran Potrč, how to make this bargain. “But the issue is not so much about Moskovič’s villa, but the controversial past of the premises of today’s National Assembly in the building of the former Banovinska hranilnica, where Združena lista acted as the owner, even though it should have been state property,” recalled Štrovs. That part of the offices at Tomšičeva street 5, at the back of the National Assembly, was actually changed to a villa, but the same premises were still kept as a political party. “Physically, nothing has changed, they just handed over ownership to the state and got Moskovič’s villa,” he said.

According to Štrovs, the original error of the party bargain lies in the fact that the fighters, the Party and socio-political organisations kept as their own the property they occupied in previous times, even though this should be state property. As he said, it is possible to read from the official website of the Temple of Democracy that in 1991 the parliamentary building was connected with several passages to the neighbouring building on Tomšičeva street. “This was built in 1879 as the Kranjska hranilnica, later the premises were taken over by the bank administration, which extended the building, and before World War II Banovska hranilnica. After the war, the premises were occupied by the Central Committee of the ZKS”. This means that the predecessor of the SD party appropriated the premises and did not return them to the previous owners. In other words, the predecessor of the SD party appropriated these premises and never returned them to the previous owners.

Štrovs warned that even if the purchase of Moskovič’s villa was legally and formally covered and it is written in the archives that the takeover of the premises in the former Banovinska hranilnica was carried out in an apparently legal manner, all the deals that people made with the state of Yugoslavia after 1945, were controversial anyway. He said that at that time people found themselves under pressure and had to sell to the state below the real price, because otherwise they would have been forcibly evicted. In his opinion, it is almost impossible to determine what the real amounts were. The same applies to Moskovič’s villa.

Scientific associate of the Institute for National Reconciliation, Dr Renato Podbersič, who is considered a good connoisseur of the history of the former Jewish villa, points out that Feliks and Klara Moskovič bought the villa in 1931. During World War II, the Germans took the Moskovič family to a concentration camp, where Feliks and their children (Vera and Julij) died in 1944. Klara Moskovič was the last to die at the beginning of 1945. After the Germans killed practically the entire Moskovič family in Auschwitz, in November of the following year, the Ljubljana District Court ordered the confiscation of all the Moskovič’s property on the basis of Article 2 of the Act on the Transfer of Enemy Property into State Property and on the sequestration of property of absent persons (Ur. l. FLRJ no. 63/46) and ordered the entry of the confiscation procedure in the land register. According to Podbersič, the communist authorities accused the murdered Feliks of collaborating with the Gestapo. Lajtner Ignjat, the brother of the late Klara Moskovič, was appointed a guardian for the absent convict in the confiscation proceedings. At the same time, Lajtner proposed that the confiscation be cancelled and that his property be assigned to temporary administration.

In May 1947, the regional court decided that the estate of the Moskovič family would go to Lajtner Ignjat, who was also registered as the owner in the land register. A year later, the Presidium of the Government of the LRS demanded from the brother of Klara Moskovič a refund of the invoices paid for adaptation works in the villa at Levstikova street 31 in the amount of 600 thousand dinars. Immediately after the inheritance discussion, which took place on February 21st, 1947, Ignjat decided to sell the villa. The latter was sold to Dana Kos for 800 thousand dinars. The latter sold the villa to general public property for 12,810,030 dinars. The administration of the building of the offices and institutions of the LRS in Ljubljana was given the management of the villa. On the basis of Article 5 of the Act on the Registration of Real Estate in Social Property, in 1982 the Socialist Republic of Slovenia was registered in the Land Registry as the owner of the right of use.

“As for the so-called exchange, which the former Party or the SD party carried out in 1993 between the building on Tomšičeva street (former premises of the CK ZKS, former – confiscated premises of the bank administration) and the current headquarters of the SD party (Moskovič’s villa), I can only say that it is an illegitimate act or the usurpation of the privileged position of former so-called socio-political organisations,” Podbersič critically emphasised in his article for Časnik last year. “The party, or the SD, traded something that was not theirs at all! But these are legal matters, and I am just a historian!” he also added.

“Read: after the joint picnic of the SD party, the judges went home and wrote an independent judgment. Did they also issue you proof of payment for the bill for the Jewish villa? How much did you pay for it? Otherwise, the same prosecutor, the same judge. The Slovenian caricature of the judiciary accumulates disgrace upon disgrace,” former Prime Minister Janša wrote critically in response. Many times, until now, it was possible to hear criticism in the public about the fact that the Slovenian judiciary is flirting with the left political pole. No wonder the trust of citizens is at such a low level. It is quite clear to many, looking at the trial process of the Janković family, that we are far from equal, and that we live in a country where we have first and second class.

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