Dutch Machines Case

CourtObsolete Court (Germany)
Docket NumberCase No. 8
Germany (British Zone), Supreme Court.
Case No. 8
Dutch Machines Case.

Belligerent Occupation — Respect for Private Proterty — Purported Title Acquired by Purchase from Occupant.

Recognition of Acts of Foreign Governments — Acts of Occupation Authorities — Title Acquired by Purchase by and from Occupation Authorities — Purchase of Goods by Nationals of Occupying Power — Collective Duress.

The Facts.—In October 1944, while the German army was in occupation of the Netherlands, the German Field Economy Administration purchased certain machines from a Dutch firm. The machines were delivered to the defendants, and in February 1945 one of them was purchased by the plaintiffs. This machine was removed from the plaintiffs' possession by a Dutch officer on July 21, 1947, and was returned to the original owners in the Netherlands. Thereupon the plaintiffs claimed from the defendants repayment of the purchase price, on the ground that the defendants had failed to transfer the property in the machine to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs contended, inter alia, that the Dutch sellers had, at the time when the original sale took place, been subject to duress and had therefore been unable to transfer the property in the machine to the German authorities and to the defendants, and that the latter had therefore been unable to transfer a valid title to the plaintiffs.

Held: that enemy occupation as such does not necessarily result in all nationals of the occupied territory being subject to duress, and that, as there was no evidence of individual duress having been exercised against the Dutch sellers, the original sale and all subsequent sales were valid and capable of transferring title in the machine, and that therefore the plaintiffs had acquired what they had bargained for and could not claim repayment of the purchase price. The Court said:

“At the time when these transactions were concluded Holland was occupied by German troops. The Hague Conventions apply to the occupation of enemy territory. … The provisions which are material in this case are Articles 23 (1) (g), 28, 46 (2), 47, 52 and 53 (2); shortly, they provide for the inviolability of private property to which the...

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