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Austria’s Pro-Nazi Laws May Be Vetoed by U.S., Washington Indicates

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Authoritative State Department sources today indicated that Austria’s new laws restoring property and civil rights to some 20,000 former Nazis will probably be vetoed by the American representative on the Allied Council in Vienna. The matter is under active study at the State Department.

Austrian officials here today said that the establishment of a "Hardship Settlement Fund" is being planned by the government in Vienna from the proceeds of heirless property belonging to Jews and others. They asserted that the disposition of this fund was discussed with Jewish organizations with a view to satisfying claims arising from the Nazi regime. At the same time, they revealed that the fund will be made up of about 95 percent heirless Jewish property and five percent of non-Jewish property.

In this connection, it was recalled that during the recent visit to Washington of Austria’s Chancellor Dr. Leopold Figl, representatives of American Jewish organizations spoke to him of their objection to the financing of such a fund to assist all victims of Nazism from what amounted to expropriated Jewish assets. They pointed out that it would be unjust to tax a small segment of the population which suffered hardships unheard of in history, and that such general social tasks call for equal sacrifices on the part of all segments of society.

AUSTRIA CHARGED WITH WRECKING RESTITUTION

The general feeling among informed sources here is that unlike Western Germany, Austria is not only attempting to assume the role of the first country in the free world bent on wrecking restitution and on completely sabotaging indemnification, but is also trying to make the Jewish victims of Nazism pay the bill for Nazism, at least to the extent of the confiscation of Jewish heirless and unclaimed property for general purposes. The satisfaction of claims against the Nazi regime is the responsibility of the Austrian economy at large, these sources underlined.

American Jewish organizations, in cooperation with the Austrian Jewish community, have been urging the Austrian Government to follow the generally accepted principle of restitution legislation in operation from Germany to Greece, that heirless Jewish assets be assigned for the relief and rehabilitation of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. On every occasion, the Austrian officials paid lip service to this principle, but in actual fact have done everything to repudiate it, it was pointed out here.

There are today about 12,000 Jews in Austria, most of them old, sick and poor. They and their institutions are supported by the Joint Distribution Committee and are in great need of the funds which they would have received had the Austrian Government handled their claims with justice, instead of passing legislation to return property to thousands of former members of the Nazi party, it was stressed by the observers here.

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