NYC lawyers once gifted Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin a tenement in Brooklyn

August 15, 2017

>Google Street View of 541 Clinton Street. Map data © 2019 Google

>Google Street View of 541 Clinton Street. Map data © 2019 Google

In the 1940s, two attorneys from Manhattan let the mortgage payments lapse on a building they owned in Carroll Gardens. Julius Freilicher and Martin Auslander had a $3,300 mortgage with Dime Savings Bank on their tenement at 541 Clinton Street. Believing it was a better idea to not pay the mortgage, the two lawyers decided the best thing was to file a deed of gift, as the Brownstone Detectives reported. The receivers of this gift? Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

Filing a deed of gift voluntarily transfers the mortgaged property to a new owner, a totally legal move. According to the New Yorker: “The law permits you to give a man something without his knowing anything about.” Since the Brooklyn apartment still had a mortgage, the bank had to legally attempt to find the new owners and figure out if they had the ability to pay it.

The bank gave the case to the Brooklyn law firm Hutton & Holahan. Hutton wrote to the Soviet and German Consulates in New York to find out whether the two dictators knew anything about their Caroll Gardens gift. After not receiving a reply, the attorney sent a process-server with a summons for Stalin and Hitler. The process-server stopped at 541 Clinton Street, but of course, neither dictator was inside. Hutton then asked the State Supreme Court if he could notify Hitler and Stalin of their property by letter instead since the in-person notification failed.

The Dime Savings Bank waited for a response from the two authoritarian leaders. After three weeks with no answer, the bank foreclosed on the property. All of their fun had cost Auslander and Freilicher just $439.53.

[Via The Brownstone Detectives]


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