SHARE
COPY LINK

ZOO

Couple who left Germany after Nazi persecution donate $22 million to Cologne Zoo

A 93-year-old widow from the United States has donated $22 million to the zoo in Cologne, Germany, saying she wanted to give back to the city where she and her husband met during the Second World War, German media reported on Friday.

Couple who left Germany after Nazi persecution donate $22 million to Cologne Zoo
Elephants at the Cologne Zoo. Photo: DPA.

“We never forgot Cologne,” Elizabeth Reichert told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper by phone from her home in Philadelphia.

She said she and her Jewish husband Arnulf Reichert both grew up in the western German city. They met in 1944, she recalled, when Arnulf lived in hiding to avoid being discovered by the Nazis.

She had known many Jews who had lived secretly during the war in Cologne.The pair married a year after the war ended and briefly moved to Israel before settling in the US, where they lived the American dream and made their fortune.

Reichert said she worked as a hairdresser, while her husband took a job for a wholesaler selling pets and pet supplies, before setting up his own business and making millions.

Shortly before her husband died in 1998, the childless couple agreed to bequeath their money to the Cologne Zoo after their deaths.

“When you start thinking about who you want to leave your money to, memories play a big role. With the zoo, the money is well spent,” Reichert said.

The couple had already shown their affection for the zoo in 1954, when they gifted a soft-shell turtle.

The considerably larger donation this time will come into effect after Reichert's death, when a foundation named after her husband will provide the zoo with an annual payment.

The zoo's director, Christopher Landsberg, said he was taken aback when he learned of the windfall from across the pond.

“I nearly fell off my chair,” he told the DPA news agency.

For members

INHERITANCE

Reader question: What are the rules on inheriting property in France?

French inheritance laws have several restrictions and quirks which can come as a bit of a surprise to foreigners, so if you are intending to make a Will in France, here's what you need to know.

Reader question: What are the rules on inheriting property in France?
Some of the files from the dispute over musician Johnny Hallyday's estate. Photo: Martin Bureau | AFP

Whether you live in France or own assets such as property here, you need to decide whether to have your Will administered under French law or the law of your home country. To find out how to make sure any previous Wills are still valid in France, click here

If you make a Will in France it is always advisable to get legal advice from a notaire or avocat, but here are some of the main points to be aware of.

Children

Much depends on whether you have any children. Under French law, children are guaranteed a share of the estate. They cannot be disinherited (even if you are estranged) and there is a minimum share of your estate that you must leave them.

Children are héritiers réservataires, who cannot be cut out of the Will and this is strict – French rocker Johnny Hallyday’s heirs were involved in a lengthy legal battle when he attempted to bypass his children in favour of his latest wife, and that’s despite the fact he lived in the USA for the last 20 years of his life.

The share they receive depends on the number of children. One child is entitled to half their deceased parent’s estate. Two children share two-thirds, and three or more share three-quarters. The rest of the estate can be passed on as you see fit.

The rules for stepchildren are more complicated. It is advisable, as it is in all situations, to discuss your personal situation with your notaire or legal expert.

As mentioned above, foreign nationals in France have the option of having their estate managed under the laws of their country of birth, so if you really don’t want your kids to inherit, you would need to opt for this.

Spouse or partner

You are not legally obliged to leave anything to your husband, wife or registered partner, but of course many people will want to ensure that their loved one is taken care of financial. 

And if you’re not multi-millionaire rock star, then being obliged to leave up to three quarters of everything to the children can leave the surviving spouse or partner with very little.

Since property represents the bulk of most people’s assets, the family home can also end up divided between several owners.

This does not mean a surviving spouse is left homeless.

As well as being able to inherit at least part of the estate, giving them a say in any property sales, for example, they also have the right to remain in the family home – as long as it is the main residence – for the remainder of their lifetime.

They have to formally declare their intention to do so within a year of their spouse’s death and just in case people fall out in the aftermath of a death, it is wise to make a notaire aware of this declaration.

For more answers to frequently asked questions about Wills and inheritance in France click here

The Notaires de France website also offers useful advice in English, while a list of English-speaking notaires in France is available here.

SHOW COMMENTS