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Confusion in Austria Makes It Difficult for Jews to Regain Their Former Dwellings

Austrian Jews returning from camps or underground hideouts are finding great difficulty in regaining their former apartments and businesses because of the confusion which reigns here.

Immediately after the Russian entry into the city, it was easy for Jews and others to reclaim their old apartments and places of business merely by applying to local officials who ousted the Nazis in residence. In cases where a business had disappeared, the Jews was permitted to obtain another one in a similar line. Several thousand such transfers were made.

However, after the establishment of a central bureau to handle such questions, the decisions of local councils were annulled and, in some cases, Nazis were protected. In addition, a decree was issued stating that all such transfers were not yet legal, and that the new owners held the business in trust and would be responsible for its administration and its stock. It has now been proposed that all of these transfers be declared illegal, and those few Jews who succeeded in re-possessing their own businesses are worried for fear they may lose them again.

The problem is made even more complicated by the fact that categories of “qualified” and “unqualified” Nazis have been set up, a survey by the Religious News Service establishes. Persons who joined the Nazi Party between July, 1, 1933 and March 13, 1938, or held a high position after 1938 are considered “qualified,” while people who joined the party only after 1938, and never held important positions are “unqualified.” Those falling into the latter category are being allowed to retain their positions and dwellings.

Jewish community officials, who are completely overwhelmed by the immensity of the problem, are faced with the double job of finding apartments for people returning from concentration and labor camps and also for 6,000 Jews married to non-Jews, who had been allowed to remain in Vienna, but who had been confined by the Nazis in substandard dwellings, many without baths or adequate cooking facilities.

The problem of reuniting the many Austrian and Viennese Jews who have spread throughout the world is being tackled by a private organization calling itself the “Austrian Information Office for Jews.” This body, which has government sanction, will attempt to answer queries directed to it from any part of the world concerning the whereabouts and fate of Jews who were deported by the Nazis or forced underground. It has set up offices at Johannesgasse 3/9 Vienna, 1.

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