Since its creation in September 1999, the Office has performed two key functions:
To identify any compensation awarded previously under the BRÜG Act of 1957 and, where applicable, under the French War Damages Act of 1946. Many of the compensation files under the latter act have been destroyed. However, compensation awarded under the BRÜG Act was calculated based on the prior compensation payments. Research in the German archives therefore gives the CIVS a more complete and useful picture of the sums already paid by France. This procedure is intended to avoid double compensation.
To extract from the German archives any evidence or other documents that could shed light on the circumstances and extent of the alleged spoliations since most claimants are no longer able to produce these documents. The diversity of the information contained in the files (original materials, personal accounts, detailed inventories, notarial deeds, etc.) enables the magistrate-rapporteurs and the Commission’s decision-making members to access the information they need to form their opinion and allows claimants to reconstruct entire chapters of their family history.
As mentioned above, access to the archives of the two main administrations responsible for enforcing the BRÜG Act ensures the thoroughness of the research. The archives of the WGA contain the claims for compensation that come under its territorial jurisdiction, including those withdrawn or denied without additional examination because of a formal defect or for any other reason not subject to dispute. Files in this category are closed either through an agreement setting the compensation amount or through a court decision settling the dispute. The archives of the OFD, although less complete, correspond in part to those of the WGA, but differ in that the compensation files include the payment decisions for the compensation awarded. They also include all claims for compensation filed for “special hardships”.
These very extensive archives are fully maintained and inventoried. More than one million files have been set up by the OFD, some 40,000 of which pertain to France. Moreover, since the Office was created, the rate of positive responses for research in the OFD’s archives has reached nearly 58%.
They also work hand-in-hand, as evidenced by the so-called “cross-checking” process implemented in conjunction with the BADV and the Berlin Landesarchiv. This process makes it possible to detect claims that were denied without being sent to the OFD or to pick out files not identified by the BADV because of spelling variations affecting the reliability of the searches.
Finally, the Office also has occasion to contact other archive centers located throughout Germany: federal archives of Koblenz, archives of the Federal Foreign Affairs Ministry, archives of the Restitution Offices of other Länder, etc., in order to carry out more targeted research, such as in cases of spoliations of works of art.
For more information, consult the FAQs