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Obituaries

Hugo Princz; Won Nazi Reparations

July 31, 2001|From Associated Press

HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. — Hugo Princz, a U.S. citizen who survived the Holocaust and won reparations from Germany after a 40-year battle, has died of cancer. He was 78.

Princz, who died Sunday, was one of 11 U.S. citizens to settle with Germany for $2.1 million in 1995. He also received an undisclosed share of a slave labor settlement with four German companies.

"Once he got the settlement, he really didn't have the opportunity to enjoy his life," his son, Howard Princz, said. "You battle enough things in your life, going through the Holocaust . . . and then you have to battle cancer."

The son of a naturalized American father, Princz was born in Slovakia. Trapped in German-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, Princz, his parents, two brothers and a sister were arrested by Slovak Fascist police as enemy aliens in early 1942.

He spent 38 months in seven Nazi camps. His two brothers died at Auschwitz; the rest of his family was sent to the Treblinka camp and executed.

Princz was liberated by U.S. soldiers who intercepted his train to Dachau.

Case Aided American Holocaust Survivors

After regaining his health in a U.S. military hospital, Princz returned to Czechoslovakia and began a fruitless search for surviving relatives. He moved to the United States in 1946 and settled in New Jersey in 1949.

He made his living as a butcher in a small market before buying the store. In the last several years, he was a building administrator at a Jewish community center.

"Many times in the last four decades my situation seemed hopeless and I felt like giving up," Princz said in 1995. "I think Germany wanted to see me die before providing me a penny."

The Germans denied Princz's 1955 request for reparations because he was neither a German citizen nor a refugee. Germany said that a U.S. citizen rescued by U.S. soldiers didn't qualify for lifetime monthly payments made to displaced Europeans freed from the camps.

Princz sued the German government, but an appeals court ruled that the lawsuit could not proceed in U.S. courts.

Despite the setback, Princz pursued his claims, leading to the 1995 settlement. The settlement called for Germany to pay any others who might meet similar qualifications as the 11 and led the U.S. government to try to determine how many other Americans might be eligible for German compensation.

As a result of the settlement, the German government in 1999 awarded about $18 million to 235 Americans who survived concentration camps.

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