June 05, 2012
A Mercedes-Benz 500K “Spezial Roadster”. Source Daimler Archive
Court rules that Mercedes-Benz taken by US troops in 1945 should be returned to family.
The owner of a $4 million vintage Mercedes-Benz could be forced to return the car to the grandchildren of its original owner, after it was stolen by US troops during World War II.
The car, a Mercedes-Benz 500K “Spezial Roadster”, is believed to be one of only 29 of its type left, according to a Bloomberg report. A Hamburg court has ruled that the car was taken unlawfully and that the family has a valid claim to ownership.
The car was seized when a Dutch collector, who bought the car for almost $4 million at an RM auction in California, displayed it at a car show in Germany.
The Bloomberg report said the car belonged to a German industrialist, Hans Prym, whose estate was commandeered by US troops towards the end of the war.
“The court has recognised our claim is valid and we will prepare the next stage and file suit for the car's return,” Alexander Martius, the lawyer who represented the heirs in court, told Bloomberg.
He said the court decision was “an important step toward restitution”.
RM Auctions said the car's history from Prym's purchase until the 1970s was unknown. It described the Mercedes as “magnificently designed, fastidiously constructed and assiduously maintained by a succession of owners.”
The car is believed to have disappeared from Prym’s estate while he was in prison.
His 84-year-old daughter, who now lives in the United States, told the court in a statement that she remembered her father being “furious” and “very dismayed” when he discovered the theft.
The court ruled that the statute of limitations had not yet expired on the theft.