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Otto Küster (1907–1989)

Otto Küster, born in Stuttgart in 1907, studied law at the universities of Tübingen, Munich, and Berlin. Employed as an auxiliary judge until 1932, he was dismissed from the magistracy for his attitude, which was critical of the regime. He began working as an attorney in 1935. After World War II, Küster served from 1945 to 1954 as special state representative for reparations in the Ministry of Justice of Württemberg-Baden, after 1952 known as the Bundesland (federal state) Baden-Württemberg. In 1948, he was part of the advisory constitutional convention in Herrenchiemsee that prepared Germany’s constitution, the Basic Law (Grundgesetz). In 1952, he and Franz Böhm led the German delegation in the negotiations with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany in The Hague (reparations agreement with Israel). Küster had a decisive influence on the reparations laws of Baden-Württemberg and took part in drafting the Federal Compensation Law (BEG, Bundesentschädigungsgesetz). The dedicated lawyer coined the term “diligent debtor” (gewissenhafter Schuldner) and was widely recognized as a “campaigner for individual restitution and compensation.” His final speech in Norbert Wollheim v. I.G. Farben i.L. before the Oberlandesgericht (Higher Regional Court) Frankfurt am Main in March 1955 is an enduring testimonial to the acceptance of the responsibility that Germans and the German state should bear for the Nazis’ crimes and their consequences. Otto Küster died in 1989.

(WR; transl. KL)