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The Schmooze

Renault Grandchildren Sue French Government for Seizing Company After WWII

Sure, French automaker Renault made about 30,000 trucks for the Nazis, and even repaired German tanks during World War II. But does that make founder Louis Renault a collaborator?

His granddaughter doesn’t think so. So along with seven other Renault grandchildren, Helene Renault-Dingli is suing the French government over what she calls “the illegal confiscation of the company in November 1944” after claims that it had backed Germany’s war effort, the UK Telegraph reports.

Louis Renault was an inventor and race car driver who founded the car company with his two brothers in 1898. He died in custody awaiting trial two months after the liberation of France in 1944, according to the Telegraph.

He was imprisoned after being accused of collaborating with Hitler, and he later developed aphasia, a psychological disorder that prevented him from speaking. At his death, he owned 96.8% of the group. “A month later, Charles de Gaulle, France’s wartime leader, signed a decree confiscating his stake in Renault on behalf of the state,” the Telegraph says.

Family members, whose efforts at legal redress had been “stymied since the de Gaulle provisional government nationalized Renault on Jan. 16, 1945, have seized on a new law that allows individuals to challenge the constitutionality of government actions in the courts,” according to The New York Times.

Today Renault’s market capitalization is 11.6 billion euros (£10.1 billion); if the family wins, they could receive well over 100 million euros, or $143 million, from the state, their lawyer told the Times. But the family insists that “cash is not the motivating factor,” the Times says.

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