State Succession (Lithuania) Case

CourtCourt of Appeal of Berlin (Germany)
Date16 l 1940
Docket NumberCase No. 44
Germany, Court of Appeal of Berlin (Kammergericht).
Case No. 44
State Succession (Lithuania) Case.

State Succession — Succession to Rights — By Operation of Municipal Law — By Treaty — The Law of Germany.

The Facts.—After the cession of Memel to Germany in March 1939, the German Reich, as successor of Lithuania, claimed certain Memel properties which had formerly belonged to Lithuania and had been used for military purposes. The Court of first instance dismissed the claim as neither in the German-Lithuanian Treaty of March 22, 1939,1 nor in the German law of March 23, 1939, concerning the incorporation of Memel in the German Reich,2 were there any provisions to the effect that the properties in question were to pass into German ownership. In addition, the Court referred to Article II (2) of the treaty, according to which the settlement of all questions, especially those of an economic character, resulting from the change of sovereignty were to be reserved for a further agreement. The Court concluded by saying that “Germany has not become the successor of the Lithuanian State as regards property in land and other objects”.

Held (by the Court of Appeal): that the decision of the Court below must be reversed. The Court said: “It is true that neither the Treaty of March 22, 1939, nor the law of March 23, 1939, contains any provisions to the effect that private property of the Lithuanian State passes to Germany. But the purpose of the treaty reveals an implied provision to this effect. In foreign law it is assumed that the cession of territory to another State also includes the succession to rights of a private law character, at least within certain limits.3 In the present case the only question for decision is whether Germany has acquired the ownership, formerly vested in Lithuania, in land which serves the needs of the government. According to the better opinion this question must be answered in the affirmative. It appears unlikely that Lithuania was to retain the ownership in land which is devoted to military uses and which is to remain solely devoted to this purpose in the future. It is irrelevant whether before the cession of Memel by Germany, the property was owned by Germany or by Prussia. There was, consequently, no reason to leave the question of the transfer open in the Treaty. Any reservation in the Treaty can therefore refer only to the question of compensation which could possibly be due to the...

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