A group of 71 big German landowners whose property was seized by the Soviet occupation government between 1945 and 1949 do not have the right to claim compensation from the German government, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled. The court found that it did not have jurisdiction to hold the present German government accountable for actions by the Soviet Union or the former German Democratic Republic. As reported by Deutsche Welle, the decision does not apply to land taken after 1949, and there is some controversy over whether the German government accepted a demand by the Soviet Union in 1990 that the postwar land reform not be reversed.
The access of various vons to their castles is mostly a matter of local color and minor interest, of course, but it is possible that the ruling could be meaningful for other cases in which current governments are faced with demands for compensation for acts which previous governments carried out. A few such cases come to mind, but all of them involve states less powerful than Germany.