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Washington Discusses Possible Veto of Austria’s Pro-nazi Laws

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The question of a possible veto by the United States, in the Allied Council, of the pro-Nazi laws passed last week by the Austrian Parliament restoring property and civil rights to more than 20,000 former Nazis, was discussed here today following the receipt of information at the State Department that the American High Commissioner for Austria, Walter J. Donnelly, was not consulted by the Austrian Government before passage of the laws.

State Department officials made no secret of the fact that they are disturbed by the haste with which the laws were enacted in Vienna. The officials indicated that they felt the new Austrian laws were not adequately considered before adoption by the Parliament. Criticisms of the laws continued to reach the State Department today, including an appeal from Jacob Blaustein, president of the American Jewish Committee, to Secretary of State Dean Acheson to have the laws vetoed.

Austrian diplomatic sources here today said that the Parliament in Vienna, "just like the American Congress," was anxious to adjourn and that therefore there was no time for a more thorough consideration of the laws. They made it clear that the Austrian Government was officially behind the laws and offered no explanation as to why the U.S. High Commissioner was not consulted on this as he has been on other matters.

AUSTRIAN DIPLOMATS IN WASHINGTON SEEK TO DEFEND LAWS

The Austrians here tried to explain away the pro-Nazi laws by stating that they concerned only "minor" Nazis. They said that the laws may be "emotionally" distasteful but are a practical necessity. "You cannot split a country permanently into two categories of people," they argued.

Austria, they continued, considers itself a victim of the Nazis and, therefore, not legally responsible for wrongs done the Jews under the Hitler regime. However, they added that responsibility is accepted for identifiable property. As a humanitarian gesture, Austria has paid pensions to Jews and others who suffered under the Nazis, they declared, asserting that seven-eighths of the 20,000 restitution cases involving Jews were settled satisfactorily.

Under the new laws, the Austrian officials explained, Nazis may petition the courts for the restoration of property and civil rights, but the only property that would be restored, they insisted, would be certified private holdings and not properties confiscated from Jews.

The Austrians pointed out that among the laws were measures which would compensate concentration camp victims on a basis of months spent in confinement and would provide adjustment of pay to civil service employees who were denied promotions under the Hitler regime. They admitted that the civil service employees to benefit would probably not include Jews, because members of the Jewish faith were not only denied seniority but were cremated in concentration camps.

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