VIENNA (Oct. 1)
Although the Austrian Government has announced that it was ready to begin discussion of Jewish restitution claims, these talks will have to overcome much opposition, especially from the Social Democratic Party, one of the two leading government parties, it was learned today.
Dr. Adolf Schaerf, Vice-Chancellor in the Austrian Government, and Social Democratic leader, indicated the nature of this opposition in a one-hour interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He advanced the following arguments:
1. Unlike Germany, the Austrian Government will not recognize as a matter of principle that Israel is entitled to present any claims against Austria.
2. There are 12,000 Austrian Jews in Israel today who do not want to accept Israel citizenship and have retained their Austrian citizenship. Many of them can be expected to return to Austria. As Austrian citizens, they have to be readmitted. The Austrian Government must consider that some of them may fall a burden on the community upon their return and thus add to the member of needy Jews now residing in Austria.
3. Gold and valuables confiscated from the Jews in Austria by the Nazi authorities during the occupation were all shipped to Germany and did not remain in Austria. Thus Germany, and not Austria, should compensate the Jews for these losses.
4. It cannot be expected that Austria should repay to the Jews the amounts they lost in confiscation of bank accounts since the Austrian currency had been devalued and the deposits in these accounts were almost worthless at the devalued rates.
5. Buildings and factories owned by Jews and largely situated in the Soviet zone of Austria are not being returned to Austria by the Soviet authorities who claim them as was reparations. The same is also true with respect to property in the Leopoldstadt section of Vienna which, in pre-Nazi days, was predominantly Jewish.
6. Many Jews who are considered Austrian citizens are actually Polish Jews who lived in Austria for years after World War L retaining their Polish citizenship and acquiring Austrian papers only a few years before their property was confiscated by the Nazi occupation authorities.
7. No talks can now be held on heirless property since under existing laws. Austrians can still make claims to property considered heirless. When this law expires, the government will begin registration of property for which no heirs are reported and only then will it be established which heirless property is Jewish.
8. Many Jews in Austria declared themselves without religions affiliation and officially declared in the pre-Nazi period that they were not to be considered members of the Jewish community. Their property therefore cannot be considered as Jewish if they left no heirs.
9. Many Jews in Austria married into other faiths, It is doubtful if heirless property left in such cases can be considered Jewish.
10. The Jewish community in Austria is now composed mostly of aged and needy Jews. Any compensation therefore should go to the communities in Austria to enable them to take care of their needs rather than to Jewish organizations abroad.
Dr. Schaerf said these represented his views on the restitution question and would be advanced by him in any restitution talks.