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March 4, 2005 2:00 AM

Jewish heirs to German department-store fortune awarded millions

A German court ruled Friday that the heirs of a Jewish family that once owned the countrys best known department store must be compensated for property they lost when the Nazi government was in power seven decades ago. In making the ruling, the court dismissed a claim to the property by KarstadtQuelle, one of Europes largest retailing chains, which in 1994 purchased companies once owned by the Wertheim family. The ruling affects only one piece of land worth a relatively modest sum of $22 million. But it eventually could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in payments to the heirs, both from the German government and from KarstadtQuelle.

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