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Memorandum of Disapproval of H.R. 3901 a Bill "For the Relief of Miss Elisabeth von Oberndorff"

November 14, 1966

I must withhold approval from H.R. 3901, "For the relief of Miss Elisabeth von Oberndorff."

This bill would direct the Office of Alien Property of the Department of Justice to return to Miss von Oberndorff, a German citizen, approximately $185,000. This amount represents the proceeds from the disposition of certain property which she owned and which was vested in the Office of Alien Property during World War II.

Miss von Oberndorff resided during World War II in Luxemburg, a German occupied country. Under these circumstances, the Trading With the Enemy Act required that the property covered by the present bill be vested in the Office of Alien Property.

When she came to this country in 1950, Miss von Oberndorff sought the return of her property. After a full hearing, her claim was denied by a hearing examiner of the Office of Alien Property because she failed to meet the strict conditions for relief for aliens established by the Congress. She was not a member of a political, racial, or religious group suffering deprivation of the rights of German citizenship by virtue of a law, decree, or regulation of the German government. The examiner's denial was upheld on two separate occasions by the Director of the Office.

I am particularly concerned that this bill would encourage other claimants to seek similar relief. Such a result would be most unfortunate since the proceeds of vested property are, by law, deposited in the War Claims Fund primarily to compensate Americans for certain losses they sustained during World War II. That Fund is not expected to be adequate to pay those claims in full.

The reports of the Judiciary Committees do not challenge the propriety of the denial of Miss von Oberndorff's claim on legal grounds. These reports, however, justify the award on equitable grounds because Miss von Oberndorff was not in sympathy with the Nazi regime and because she assisted a fugitive from that regime and members of the Luxemburg resistance movement.

Miss von Oberndorff's feelings and actions were clearly commendable. They do not, however, justify special relief from a limited fund available to pay Americans who hold valid claims and a carefully defined class of aliens.

For these reasons, I am compelled to disapprove this bill.



November 14, 1966

Lyndon B. Johnson, Memorandum of Disapproval of H.R. 3901 a Bill "For the Relief of Miss Elisabeth von Oberndorff" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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