River and Canal Administration of Pillau Case

Date22 Mayo 1951
Docket NumberCase No. 17
CourtCourt of Appeal of Schleswig (Germany)
German Federal Republic, Court of Appeal of Schleswig.
Case No. 17
River and Canal Administration of Pillau Case.

States — Continuity of — Changes in Condition — Whether Federal Republic of Germany Identical with Former Reich — Liability Incurred by Reich in Relation to Territory Subsequently Severed from Reich — Whether Federal Republic under Duty to Discharge Liability.

The Facts.—The River and Canal Administration of a locality situate in a part of Germany severed from the former Reich after the end of hostilities in the Second World War, had incurred certain liabilities towards the plaintiff at a time when the Reich was still in existence. The plaintiff now brought an action against the Federal Republic of Germany and contended that the latter, being identical in law with the former Reich, was liable for the debt owing to him. On behalf of the Federal Republic it was contended that the liability of the Federal Republic was limited to debts incurred within and relating to territory now forming part of the Federal Republic.

Held: that the action must fail. There was no identity in law between the Federal Republic of Germany and the former Reich, and the Federal Republic was not liable for debts incurred in and in relation to territory not now forming part of the Federal Republic. The Court said:

“The German Reich did not become extinct by virtue of the capitulation or any subsequent legislative enactment of the Occupying Powers. The question as to the continued existence of the Reich as an entity endowed with legal personality must therefore be answered in the affirmative.1 The Federal Republic is limited territorially to the territory of the three Western Zones of occupation, and is only the West German Federal Republic in Germany. Accordingly, the German Reich and the Federal Republic are not identical. Article 134 of the Basic Law (Constitution) is concerned with the assets and liabilities of the Reich, and according to this provision the

assets of the Reich become, in principle, the assets' of the Federal Republic. However, paragraph 2 then provides as follows: ‘In so far as these assets were, according to their original purpose, destined mainly for administrative purposes which by virtue of the Basic Law do not form part of the administrative duties of the Federation (Federal Government), they shall be transferred, without consideration, to the authorities which are now competent for the discharge of these duties … and to the “Länder”’. It follows...

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